The Divine Hours of Lent

One of the great things for me is that for the last few years, I have been asked to do two days of the speaking at the Noon Day services that accompany the Calvary Waffle Shop. And by custom–it’s hardly old enough to be a tradition at this point and God forbid I should ever live long enough for it to become so….By custom, I am the first speaker each year, doing the talking on the first Thursday (yesterday) and Friday (today) after Ash Wednesday. I would say, “doing the preaching,” but I am no preacher. I never felt the desire to be one or showed the slightest proclivity toward it. I’m basically a story-teller when I stand in a chancel or even when, upon very rare occasions, I am forced to get into a pulpit. I like to tell the old tales, those about saints or Old Testament heroes and heroines or just about folks I have known over the years. But this year I’m not doing stories…didn’t do one yesterday and won’t do one today.
This Lent, Fr. MacBeth, our rector, said he wanted to begin the holy time with a different kind of story. He wanted us to commence Lent by talking about the story of Christianity as it is right now and right here. He wanted those who came to Calvary this year for waffles and worship to hear something about emergent and emerging Christianity and what it means to our shared faith. Since emergence is, to a very large extent, the focus of my professional work, and given that is it most certainly the basis for much of my excitement about the Church in North America, I thought the good rector’s idea was an especially happy one. So we invited Tony Jones, executive director of, to come down from Minneapolis and conduct, with me, a public dialog for the noon services yesterday and today.
I’ve known Tony for a number of years and loved and admired him for every single one of those years, but never more than yesterday when we sat in that old and beautiful space and talked together about today’s Church and about its thirsty, hungry pursuit of what’s called ‘the ancient future.’ That expression was first coined by the late Robert Webber and means to name a number of things. But for me, the best summary of all those things is that in our most recent, heavily rational, heavily Enlightenment centuries of being Christian, we have somehow forgotten something. We have forgotten that there is more to saying, “I am Christian” than just believing some things. There is the business as well of being inside of a life that is sculpted and marked by the spiritual disciplines and practices of the faith. And those things–those principles and habits of praxis–have been there from the beginning just as, for the last few centuries of intellectualized belief, they have been waiting for us not so much to re-discover them, as to grow mature enough to incorporate them back into our living of the faith.
Christians who incarnate both belief and discipline. It’s a rich, fecund idea and, I pray, is more than sufficient as a contemporary story this first week of Lent.

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