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Live Blogging Lent: Introduction

By Mark D. Roberts | Monday, February 22, 2010

Part 1 of series: Live Blogging Lent
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I expect that most of my readers are familiar with live blogging. It is, as one would expect from the name, a version of blogging, or putting up one’s “log” on the “web.” Live blogging involves putting up posts in the midst of some event, usually an event of significance. So, for example, the Wall Street Journal “live blogged” the opening ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics, publishing minute-by-minute accounts of and observations about what was happening in Vancouver. There you find blog posts such as:

With 10 minutes to go, the crowd is getting lively. Camera flashes are going off across the stadium like twinkling stars.

Finally, we begin.

Enter the bureaucrats: IOC President Jacques Rogge and Canadian functionaries.

So far, the Australians get the biggest cheers. They have also purchased the majority of the beer here tonight.

The Georgian members are subdued, sad looking. No wonder.

Liechtenstein averages three Olympic athletes per square foot.

Roof blows off with the Canadian team’s entry. Crowd awakes from its torpor. It’s showtime.

Live blogging allows readers to feel as if they are present in an event. It allows for more spontaneity, humor, and authenticity than you’d find in an official television broadcast or newspaper story.

Beginning today, I want to live blog Lent. I want to offer some observations on Lent as I go through it. My hope is that these reflections might be of encouragement to you in your Lenten experience, or in your relationship with God in general.

There is a certain risk in doing what I propose to do here. Actually, there are several risks. Let me mention two of them.

The first risk that comes to mind is that which is well known to pastors. It’s the risk of diluting the authenticity of an experience of God by talking about it too much or too often. Preachers sometimes seem to turn all of life into a source of sermon illustrations. You wonder if their spiritual experiences are genuine, or are mostly meant to supply pulpit principles. I know what it’s like to have an unusually powerful experience of God and to think it the middle of it, “This will preach.” Somehow, that thought, however true it might be, diminishes the experience, turning my heart away from God and to my work.

Aware of the risk that live blogging Lent might inhibit my spiritual growth in Lent, I will not give hourly or daily reports of my experiences. Most of what happens with me in this season will be kept where it belongs, in the privacy of my relationship with God and those who are my closest partners in faith.

The second risk associated with live blogging Lent is the emptiness that comes from boasting. Let’s suppose, for example, that I choose to give up something for Lent, something that is costly to me. If I blog about this, I run the risk of bragging about my spiritual prowess. Such pretentiousness is obviously inconsistent with the spirit of Lent, not to mention Christian humility.

But even if I don’t boast about my Lenten disciplines, I still run the risk of disobeying Jesus’ specific teaching on fasting (and, by implication, other disciplines). In the Sermon on the Mount he said,

“And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Matt 6:16-18)

So by speaking openly of my Lenten experiences, I run the risk of limiting their power to fulfill their purpose, which is helping me grow in relationship with God and preparing me for Easter.

Why, then, you might wonder, am I live blogging Lent? I’m doing it in the hope that I can be helpful to others. Speaking openly of my experiences, my struggles, my hopes, my fears might allow you to see yourself more clearly and truly.

This sort of authentic communication has a powerful precedent both in Scripture and tradition. It’s hard to imagine more honest sharing of spiritual experience than what we find throughout the Psalms. In the New Testament we glimpse the realities of faith in, for example, the story of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32-42) or Paul’s open confession of his spiritual challenges (2 Cor 1). Some of the most powerful Christian literature is the result of an author’s opening of his or her life of faith (and doubt). Augustine’s Confessions is the prime example.

In closing, I want to mention one further danger in live blogging Lent . . . making it about me. Ugh! If I spend my time in Lent thinking mostly about myself rather than God, then I’ll miss the point. We Christians, especially those of us in the postmodern, Western world, can get way too involved in ourselves: our thoughts, our actions, and especially our feelings. We can think, for example, that worship is mostly a matter of our emotions. So if I’m filling my Lent with wondering “How am I doing?” then the answer will surely be, “Quite poorly.” Much better questions for Lenten would include: “What is God doing in me? What is God saying to me? Who is God that he should be mindful of me? How can I give more of myself to God in this season, so that I might continue to live more thoroughly for him in the future? How is God pouring his grace into my life?”

Stay tuned for the next update in this series on live blogging Lent.

Topics: Lent |


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