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Lent 2018 Foreword
Disasters have rolled across our national life these last months with the intensity of an unrelenting biblical plague—hurricanes smashed into Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, and ﬁres ﬁlled western skies with smoke and left a moon-like landscape of ash in California. And while nature seemed to be taking revenge on our wanton disregard for the health of the planet, the “land of the free and home of the brave” shuttered along dangerous fault lines: white nationalism ﬂourished and strutted before Confederate monuments; a gunman, rational and cunning, ﬁred lawfully-owned automatic weapons into a Las Vegas concert crowd; and a ﬂood of lies ﬂowed from the White House as the nation listened with angry disdain or with the acceptance of a decadent society. And now preachers are called to preach Lenten sermons, 2018, sermons for a season loaded with the old words of sin, repentance, and sanctiﬁcation, words that sound so un-American, words that are so offensive to our therapeutic culture of congratulatory self-afﬁrmation driven by an economy built on consumption. Where in the world do we start as we seek to be faithful preachers of the gospel of Jesus Christ during Lent 2018? This issue of the JP suggests we start with repentance.
In his lead article “Preaching Repentance in Lent,” Joe Harvard draws on his experience in Charleston, SC, after the massacre at Mother Emmanuel, AME Church. He acknowledges how difﬁcult it is to preach on repentance in a therapeutic culture that seeks to make us feel good about ourselves. Repentance, he says, comes as a surprising gift and ﬂows from what God has done for us in Christ. And that repentance is what Harvard experienced as he heard the husband of the murdered Bible teacher at Emmanuel speak of forgiveness and as he heard the mayor of Charleston call for “deeds of repentance” for white racism that had for so long marked the city.
The sermon by Anthony Thompson, which had so moved Harvard, follows. As Thompson reﬂects on the murder of his wife Myra Thompson, he makes clear that Christian forgiveness is not cheap and easy, but hard and painful and amazingly liberating. In his sermon “We Who Are Called,” Tyrone Greenlee takes a hard look at his experience as a black man and at the indignities and oppression that are so central to the story of African Americans. As fear and dread are stirred by the erupting of racism’s deep poison in American life, he draws on the stunning witness of the black church for words of hope and courage. Mark Ramsey’s sermon “Really?” was preached in Texas the Sunday after the white supremacists’ march and murder in Charlottesville. His text is Romans 8, what Ramsey calls “an unsentimental, equipping text about the powerful love of God.” John Kuykendall’s sermon “To Tell the Truth” is about the signiﬁcance of truth in our lives—private and public. To tell the truth, it is a timely subject for Lenten preaching, 2018.
Jan Rippentrop’s article, “Lenten Prophets’ Insider Tips for Living through Political Chaos” provides rich resources for those following the Lectionary as she focuses on readings from three prophets.
Brent Strawn reviews Walter Brueggemann’s important new book Money and Possessions and provides an introduction for three sermons that draw directly from three different chapters in the book—“The Life that Really is Life” by Mary Hinkle Shore; “Do Not Covet” by Camille Cook Murray; and “Row, Row, Our Boat” by Elizabeth Goodman. Tom Currie’s concluding article “Tears” draws together—in a wonderfully available and sharply focused theological reﬂection— the Lenten themes of this Lenten issue, 2018.