FEASTING ON THE WORD LENTEN COMPANION: A Thematic Resource for Preaching and Worship. Edited by David L. Bartlett, Barbara Brown Taylor, and Kimberly Bracken Long. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2014. Xi + 300 pages.
The Lenten season, like the season of Advent, carries with it a certain penitential and introspective sense. It is a season of fasting and prayer (even if we don’t all give something up, we understand that the season itself follows Jesus’ forty day sojourn in the wilderness, where he fasted and faced temptation). However we choose to observe it, the season is an important part of the journey toward Easter. Without it Easter comes off as merely a nice spring festival (at least in the northern hemisphere).
The Revised Common Lectionary offers the preacher a set of texts that are designed to lift up relevant themes for Lent, beginning with Jesus’ time in the wilderness. But, the RCL is not the only place to find relevant texts. As with the earlier Advent Companion, Westminster John Knox Press has published a Lenten Companion, which takes us from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday. Like the earlier volume it is edited by David Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor, who served as editors of the now completed Feasting on the Word series. They are joined in this venture by Kimberly Bracken Long, who serves as editor of the Feasting on the Word Worship Companion, which supports the RCL readings. Although not named on the cover, credit is given on the inside to Jessica Miller Kelley, who compiled the materials for this resource.
Together the editors have compiled a volume that includes alternative readings from the Old and New Testaments, along with complete worship services that support those texts. In addition, there are commentaries on each text that make use of materials either found in previous Feasting on the Word volumes are written for this volume. These cover theological, pastoral, exegetical, and hometical approaches. The worship materials include prayers, calls to confession, prayers of confession, song/hymn suggestions to match the theme for the day, and children sermons for each Sunday (should your congregation have them). Unfortunately they did not include Eucharistic prayers. In addition to the Sunday readings and worship materials, they provide materials for Maundy Thursday (with a service of foot-washing and Eucharist), Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.
For those who have midweek services, or would be interested in offering them during the season, the editors have provided materials for seven weeks of services, beginning with Ash Wednesday and concluding with the Wednesday of Holy Week. One could easily read the homilies and provide time for silent meditation upon them.
For those seeking alternative worship materials and preaching helps for the season of Lent, they (we) can be thankful for the work of the editors and for Westminster John Knox in their efforts to support thoughtful preaching and vibrant worship.