The Work of the People is an incredible media group that makes what they call visual liturgies- videos and loops that are great for use in church services as well as personal reflections. Here’s the link to a video done for Easter this year to my song “The Cupboard’s Full”:
At the end of February I led a worship service here in Colorado where people received oil and ashes on their foreheads in preparation for Lent and Easter. The gathering was called “Ashes” and our evening was divided into movements that followed the story of the Israelites in Exodus. First movement: their crying out to God. Second Movement: Their freedom as God leads them out of Egypt. Third Movement: their experience in the desert as God purges the Egypt out of them- hence the name of the worship service, “Ashes”. Fourth Movement (only hinted at in the end of our evening) heading into the promised land.
Below are some of the photos that were used in the evening as slides and reflections. They had great depth in their simplicity and I wanted to share them with you. Thomas Nash was the designer of the room for this worship event and consequently the photographer for these incredible pictures.
Movement 1: The Cry
February 22nd was “Ash Wednesday” in the church calendar. It marks the time for the start of Lent- the 40 day pre-show before Easter. It’s a time where we recognize winter still has a hold, but it’s losing ground. And the winter in our soul can reflect on our need for resurrection in our dead places. It is a beautiful, hard time.
I love this about Lent: It addresses despair and the parts of us that say, “It’s always going to be like this”.
I’ve been realizing here recently that I love the seasons that are more about death. I love fall and winter. And I love songs about loss and I love requiems. I enjoy dark movies and books and perhaps just darker themes in general. But these last few weeks I’ve been confronted with the need to fall in love with the seasons that are all about life- spring and summer- in the same way I love the ones where everything falls asleep. It’s time for me to recognize life as something just as true as death. Wrestling with despair can birth wonderful art, but staying and living in that place would end me.
Yes, there is death, but we do not hold onto despair. A spring comes. Tomorrow will not always be like today. Things change. They grow, evolve and head towards life. We tear down deteriorating spaces and clear overgrown plots. That which needs built up can be seen heading and stretching towards light. In lent we realize our desperate need for the turning of tides to happen. Our winter is waning and being filled with glorious, warm sun.
Robert Frost has a poem about walls that begins this way:
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun,
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
Below is a picture of a way-gone wall. My two brother-in-laws used to drink massive amounts of “Bawls”, an obnoxiously named (and obnoxiously tasting) energy drink. They drank ulcer-inducing cases of this stuff (not exaggerating here. Ulcers were had. Bawls thought to be the culprit.) One spring they decided they were going to build a beautiful, blue, “Bawls” glorifying wall. They didn’t get too far before there teenage-selves realized there were better things to do.
Then over the next several years no one touched this blue structure. But here it is; decimated. And here I am this Lent, reflecting on this: there is something that doesn’t love walls. We don’t quite see it happen, but great weather makes it’s way into our projects and constructions and tears things that need tearing down. We have hope. Things change. It’s slow and may involve some dead seasons of terrible winter. But eventually, life comes to fill where we had built our hopeless walls.
May we be blessed with hope, life, and the destruction of our walls this Lent.