lenten journal: getting started


    Yesterday, Ginger, Cherry, and I took part in an “urban hike” through our neighborhood of Old West Durham to learn our way around a bit more and to learn some of the history of our neighborhood. John Schelp, the president of our neighborhood association, led the hike and dispersed the information. He did an amazing job of mixing old stories and facts with architectural notes about some of the houses and discussing current issues for our neighborhood. I learned, for instance, that John Loudermilk, who wrote “Tobacco Road,” was born in a house that stood at the end of our block, that Duke Tobacco was the only tobacco company in America before the Sherman Antitrust Act, and the dry cleaning industry grew out of the demise of icehouses. The tour led me back to the OWNDA website, where I found this quote:

    For each home ground we need new maps, living maps, stories and poems, photographs and paintings, essays and songs. We need to know where we are, so that we may dwell in our place with a full heart.
    Scott Russell Sanders

    Some years ago (OK, many years ago), Skip Waterbury, the senior pastor at the church in Winchester, preached a sermon on the first sentence of the Gospel of Mark: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ.” Actually, the point of his sermon was that those words were not the first sentence but more like a title for the whole document. Jesus’ life was the beginning of his gospel and we continue it. Or not.

    In the middle of a wonderful Easter service today, both Scott and Skip joined me in worship as we sang the second verse to Charles Wesley’s wonderful Resurrection hymn, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today.”

    Love’s redeeming work is done, alleluia!
    Fought the fight, the battle won, alleluia!

    Ginger will be the first to tell you I am not a fan of altering hymn lyrics, even though it is quite fashionable for hymnal committees to do so (and most of the changes read like poetry written by committee). Still, as we sang those words I wanted to change them because, even as much as Jesus’ Resurrection cosmically changes things, Love’s redeeming work was not done that first Easter morning. Even Jesus wasn’t finished yet. And I thought of Skip’s take on Mark and then rewrote the line in my head:

    Love’s redeeming work’s begun, alleluia!

    Of course, my lyric shows the danger of playing with hymn texts because Love’s redeeming work began long before Jesus, going back to, well, “In the beginning, God . . .” I will, however, leave that tangent for another post. Tonight, I’m sticking with my words and how they call me to see myself – to see all of us – as participants in Love’s redeeming work on both sides of the equation. Like Russell said, we need new maps and stories, new art and action, that “we may dwell in our place with a full heart.”

    At our sunrise service this morning, we sang:

    Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
    Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me
    Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me
    Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me

    If Love’s redeeming work were done, there would be no need for such a prayer. But Jesus started it and then left us here in the ‘hood to draw new maps, build new homes, write new hymns (!), and redeem one another, even as we are redeemed. Celebrating the Resurrection is not merely celebrating a done deal but opening our hearts to brought back to life everyday. In the face of all there is in the world that says death is the final word and violence is what humans instinctively do to one another, we are called to bring God’s redeeming word of Love.

    Love is the last word, not death.

    Yet we are far from the last word and need to remember that from now until then Love is the word. We are called to love the world right down to those people we look in the eye everyday. Christ the Lord is risen today, which means we must commit ourselves to beginning Love’s redeeming work once again.



    P.S. – Thus endeth this year’s Lenten Journal. I’m taking tomorrow off.


    1. Thank you for your devotion and lending your gifts through the Lenten journey.
      I can understand the day off, but please know your words do bring a sense of companionship with the Word.

    Leave a Reply