Ash Wednesday Egalitarianism, or “Why do female preachers suck?”

paul-schrott-ash-wednesday-bwYes, that’s me in that picture. I love that picture. It’s been used in a few posts since it was taken a couple of years ago. This isn’t (just) because of some weird sense of narcissism that loves to see my face on my blog posts. Rather, this picture is a very meaningful reminder of one of the most formative nights in my Christian life.

I said in the beginning of this series on Women in the Church that for most of my life, I had been one of the staunchest defenders of male-led church leadership. I knew all the arguments, I believed the caricatures of the other side, and importantly, I had experienced that women made terrible preachers of sermons.

Now remember: this was “pre-conversion” Paul that was thinking these things. But still, as I had visited friend’s churches, listened to audio, and seen female televangelists, it was hard not to notice that I had never heard a “good” sermon offered by a woman. It seemed clear to me, then, that this unique “anointing” and “gifting” to preach was reserved for men.

Don’t get me wrong. I had received incredible guidance, teaching, and wisdom from women. But these had been in the contexts of schools, lectures, books, blogs, campus ministers, podcasts, and the wider world–not church sermons.

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Join liberti for Ash Wednesday tonight

liberti-churchIf you find yourself in the Philly area, I just wanted to extend an invitation to you to join my church, liberti center city, tonight for our Ash Wednesday service. It will be a time of reflection, singing, prayer, imposition of ashes, and inviting into this year’s Holy Lent.

The service is tonight at 7pm sharp, at 17th and Sansom St. There is also free parking available.

A group of us will probably get dinner afterwards. So if you’re in Philly, and especially if Ash Wednesday is new to you, I encourage you to come on out and join us at the beginning of this Holy Lenten season.

Also, for the rest of the Lent season, liberti has put together a simple prayerbook to guide our times of meditation and reflection. The liberti Lent prayerbook is a highlight of my Lent every year, and so be sure not to miss out.

Holy Day Apathy & Holy Years to Come

I found myself sitting in our joint Maundy Thursday service alongside the other congregation from which we rent space, frustrated. I was a little distracted because I had arrived late and my adrenaline was still going, making my senses heightened and my self-diagnosed ADD kick-in. I was also mad at myself for my own liturgical snobbiness, which had taken note that the service was technically a Good Friday liturgy that they were using on Thursday.

Now, I know I can go too far in chasing mystical and intense dynamics in my relating to God. But still, I was so wanting to feel God on this night, and I sat there in this service confused and saddened at my failure in finding it.

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prayer & reflections for Lent, wk1 (2.26-3.3,2012)

prayer for the day.

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let us find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
(from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)

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Please help me give my money away! [UPDATED]

As I said the other day while introducing Lent this year, the Lenten season has historically been marked by three practices of those that participate in it. Prayer and fasting tend to get most of the attention, but almsgiving is another component of a Lent-historically-done-well. Almsgiving is the ancient term for giving materially of your resources for the purpose of charity, love, and grace.

I have never been good at giving my money away. Tithing has always been difficult for me to practice; giving to the homeless has been hard; and I always have a good excuse why I’m not able to give to some cause greater than myself. Sure, I’ll talk about the organization or even write a blog post in support of it, but it’s hard for me to part ways with my money.

This season, however, I wanted to try an experiment to fight against this and hope and pray that God meets me in it and grows me in deep, lasting ways.

This Lent, I want to give away some of my money everyday. For Monday through Saturday (the Church considers Sundays Lent “mini-breaks”), I want to give some amount of money to a non-profit or charity that can use it to help others.

But I need help.

If you have a non-profit or charity or social justice organization that you particularly like, could you leave a comment below telling me what it is?
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Lent: a silly Catholic ritual you should do [GUEST POST]

[Today’s guest post is written by one of my dearest friends and biggest theological influences, Austin Ricketts (pictured above). I’m trying to talk him into letting me post more of his stuff here. We’ll see. I hope you enjoy what he has on tap for us today.]

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
(Joel 2:12-13)

For many (probably most) Protestants in America, Ash Wednesday is just a silly Catholic ritual.  I would rather not start a debate about the historical fact that, without the silly Catholic ritual of the Eucharist or the silly Catholic ritual of Baptism, Protestants would not have the Bible that they have, nor the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and Christ.
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prayer & reflection for the beginning of Lent

prayer for the day.

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our cares on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)

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Ash Wednesday & Lent 2012: how are you observing?

[For those in Philadelphia: the liberti church that meets in the Fishtown neighborhood is having an Ash Wednesday service tonight at 7:30. For those in Center City, I will be going to a 6pm service at the Church of the Holy Trinity right on Rittenhouse park. I hope to see you there.]

It’s Ash Wednesday!

(Here’s the prayer for this Holy Day that millions of Christians around the world are praying today–feel free to join them.)

Lent really is my favorite time of year. And Ash Wednesday is particularly special. We spend these weeks meditating on those ways in which we need God the most, and he meets us in it. As we lead up to the celebration of God dying and rising again, we meditate upon those reasons why he needed to come and do it in the first place–namely, that this world is not what it will be, and God took it in his hands to accomplish what was needed to get us there.
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prayer & reflection for Ash Wednesday

prayer for the day.

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
(from the liberti Lent & Easter 2012 prayerbook & the Book of Common Prayer)
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The Hope of Gethsemane (of Lent, Mortality, & Ashes)

I always have high and lofty hopes for Lent. Each year I have visions in my head of those amazing “spiritual” things I will do over these 40 days that will result in life-long and generational sins merely falling away from my life; my heart finally unburdened of the weights and yokes it has borne for so long.

And alas, God consistently and assuredly meets me in this season, but the time is rather marked by a sharp sense and sting of failure in these things I have dreamt of doing.

And so, I find myself here, five days into Lent, having already felt this weight of my own shortcomings and self-deception: dearest brothers confronting me in the facades I present to the world out of my own fears and insecurities, telling me how hard it is to love me; finding my heart wander to those old idolatries that I thought only marked my youth and immaturity; my social anxieties paralyzing me in my greatest opportunities of worship; falling short of the fast I have offered to God in this season; etc., etc., etc., etc….

And it’s right then in these moments that my greatest love–my Bridegroom, my Lover, my Hope, and my Healer: the Lord–meets me. Continue reading

It’s that time of year again….Lent.

I was just reading the article I wrote last year when I gave up Facebook for Lent. So much has changed. I remember that last year I saw fasting during Lent as some Catholic thing that might be a good idea to do. Also, my reason for giving up Facebook was to help me in the areas of procrastination and discipline.

On the discipline front, it’s funny to have watched how things have played out since then; even more so in light of this year’s Lent. As I finished up that second semester of seminary, my procrastination and discipline issues only worsened.As I dropped out and spent the summer woefully unemployed and poor, my nights got later, I became completely unproductive on nearly every front, and my soul seemed to shrivel because of my lack of discipline and consistent pursuit of God.

In the Fall I moved to a new church community and slowly started to become revived. For the first time I began to understand Calvin’s assertion that theology is only truly theology when it’s lived out. I can no longer divorce orthodoxy from obedience. As time went on, I got swept up in the various means of grace that God has given his church (to be talked of more later), and I was drawn to Him. In the midst of my “dry season” (as we charismatics call them) I feebly reached for a few resources to keep the dwindling flame alive. I eventually got my hands on a sweet copy of the Book of Common Prayer. As of about a month ago, after getting some help, I actually began getting up at a consistent early time and doing some morning devotions. I’ve even been doing some evening devotions as well. I’ve been more consistent in my thinking, writing, and planning. It’s been amazing. I feel my soul revived. After reading that Lent post from last year, I can’t help but wonder if this newfound discipline and productivity are the fruits of the grace obtained in last year’s Lent season.

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