Archive for category Lent
Lent begins this Wednesday and I’ve landed on this year’s soundtrack for this season of repentance – Mumford & Sons Sigh no more. I know I’ve blogged on them earlier here, but this album continues to capture me and much of the honest, plaintive confession of Lent.
The title song Sigh no more confesses: “My heart was never pure / You know me” and then hopes for a “love that will not betray you / dismay or enslave you, it will set you free.“ The Cave cries out the hope of Lenten penitence – “I need freedom now / and I need to know how / to live my life as its meant to be.” Lent is a long study in giving up all the ways we try to find life, finding life as its meant to be lived in Jesus and his passion.
And it keeps coming. In Roll Away Your Stone, they name the empty, endless chase to fill our hearts with things which always end up as ashes, and yet the hope found by every prodigal returning home to God: “You told me that I would find a hole / within the fragile substance of my soul / And I have filled this void with things unreal / And all the while my character it steals / But darkness is a harsh term don’t you think? / And yet it dominates the things I seek / it seems that all my bridges has been burned / you say that’s exactly how this grace thing works / it’s not the long walk home that will change this heart / but the welcome I receive with a restart.“
Awake My Soul is an honest probe of a lumpy heart: ”How fickle my heart and how woozy my eyes / I struggle to find any truth in your lies / And now my heart stumbles on things I don’t know / This weakness I feel I must finally show.” Isn’t this what Lent is – an invitation to the painful journey of revealing our weaknesses, our broken hearts and disjointed lives, praying that God would awaken us to resurrection life?
And then there’s Little Lion Man, my choice for this year’s Lent heart song. Likely written about a love lost, it’s a powerful, pounding, holding-nothing-back lament of regret and heartbreak, equally applicable to my unfaithful heart for God:
“Weep for yourself, my man / you’ll never be what is in your heart / Weep little lion man / you’re not as brave as you were at the start / Rate yourself and rake yourself / take all the courage you have left / wasted on fixing all the problems that you made in your own head / But it was not your fault but mine / … Tremble for yourself, my man / you know that you have seen this all before / tremble little lion man / you’ll never settle any of your score / your grace is wasted in your face /” And don’t miss the spot in the song (2:45) where the band begins a sung cry, a gut-level, lyric-less lament – listen to it (see below) as the voice of Lent.
The album title comes from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about nothing” (Act 2, scene 3: ”Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever, One foot in sea, and one on shore, To one thing constant never”) – this band is wonderfully literate. In this scene from Shakespeare, Balthasar urges the other women to sigh no more, to let go of the disappointment and expectation for men to change and, instead, accept and love them as they are. Throughout Lent I’m faced with my own shadows, left sighing with disappointment again, wishing for change in my fickle heart. But the gospel of Jesus Christ is the stunning call to sigh no more, telling me I’m accepted in spite of myself. That is the work of Lent and the starting point of any real change, of a resurrection.
Below is the video for Little Lion Man (just a word of caution – if you’re offended by the use of the f-bomb, then do avoid this song).<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/8585663″>Mumford & Sons – “Little Lion Man”</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/mikeylevelle”>Mikey Levelle</a> on <a href=”http://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>
Get ready to see a peculiar sight this coming Wednesday. You’ll likely note a smudge of dirt on the guy serving up your coffee or the woman working in the next door office. They didn’t forget to shower; it’s not ink from their newspaper. It’s Ash Wednesday which begins the season of Lent, and for many Christians they enter this season receiving the mark of the cross, smudged on their forehead with an ash-oil mixture. Lent is the 40 day season of penitence, prayer, passion and preparation (that’s some crazy alliteration) to walk with Christ towards the cross and welcome the resurrection.
Below is the introduction to Lent from my daily prayer book Seeking God’s Face.
Lent carries almost too much religious baggage with it for some people, popularly understood as a season of joyless custom and duty. How then do we keep the gospel front and centre in this season of shadows? The cross keeps our gospel focus clear. Lent is a season to journey with Jesus in his passion, to survey the cross, taking the measure of Christ’s love in his suffering and death.
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is the forty-day season leading up to Easter. (If you count all the days, there are more than forty, but the Sundays are not counted as part of Lent, as they are resurrection celebrations held throughout the season.) It begins with the stark reminder that “from dust you have come and to dust you will return” and leads toward Jesus’ final week, marked by Palm Sunday and stopping short of the resurrection celebration of Easter morning. Ashes are a good emblem of Lent, a picture of our own mortality and spiritual condition, a sign of Lent’s penitent spirit, and yet a hint of the hope of renewal.
Celebration isn’t the word to use for our participation in Lent. It is a somber journey of spiritual preparation and renewal, marked especially by repentance and prayer. In our pain-averse culture, Lent stands apart by not shrinking away from suffering but cultivating in us the wisdom that growth often (some might say only) comes through suffering. In a time and place of religious freedom, where we mostly don’t suffer for following Christ, Lent invites us to willingly identify with Christ’s suffering through fasting or other forms of self-denial.
The spare and sober nature of Lent is healthy for the heart and true to the gospel, scrubbing away frothy spirituality by calling us to say ‘no’ to ourselves in order to experience a greater ‘yes’ in Jesus. It helps to imprint the form of the cross in our lives, recognizing that the news of the risen Lord Jesus is not good without the way of the cross. Lent prepares us to experience the reality of resurrection joy only by first recognizing the depth of our sin that pinned Christ to the cross.