James Brown and Lent

(I originally wrote this for my church. I added a couple of thoughts).

Bear with me just a minute.

One of my favorite records is James Brown Live in Paris in 1971. It is one of the most intense sets of music I’ve ever heard. In terms of flat out energy, I’d put it up against releases from most metal and industrial bands. For 73 minutes (the entire CD), the band just cooks. There are, however, breaks: times when James needs to hang back and sing a ballad, in order to give the band—and the audience—a break.

In short, funk—and art, and life—needs contrast. 

Dark so that light can stand out.

Silence so that noise can be pronounced.

If all you ever have is noise, life gets exhausting. If you only ever go “full throttle”, sooner or later you run out of gas. A holistic, healthy life needs to swing back and forth between exertion and rest, engagement and retreat, waking and sleeping. A holistic life needs silence, needs rhythm, needs diversity.

Our spiritual life is no different. In a sense, every Sunday is a miniature celebration of the resurrection, and all of the joy and excitement that comes with it. However, it can be easy to become addicted to “resurrection,” and to begin to think that our spiritual lives should only ever be full of joyful shouting.

For our own spiritual health, sometimes we need to engage in a different perspective.

That’s where seasons such as “Lent” can be helpful. Lent is a traditional season of the church that is useful for preparing for the earth-shattering, paradigm-shaking event of the resurrection at Easter. To that end, it’s historically been a season where Christ-followers reflect on their lives and thoughtfully contemplate the forgiveness that God offers us through Jesus, often through activities such as fasting, silence, and confession.

The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, where we are invited to remember our mortality, to remember the beginning of Jesus’ journey towards the cross, and to symbolically begin our own. E3 will have two traditional Ash Wednesday gatherings—at 7:30 am and at noon—on February 22.

… Because even the hardest working man in show business needs some occasional quiet time.

Lent is traditionally about reflection, fasting, and giving. Here are a few questions to get you thinking:

  • Where/how do you need contrast in your life? Do you need silence? Or maybe you have the silence thing down, and you need “engagement”; where can you give—but give secretly—over the next forty days?
  • What have you become too dependent upon for life? What needs to be removed in order for you to re-orient yourself towards your dependence on God?
  • How can you follow Jesus to the cross this season?
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