In the New Testament, the word "brethren" describes a community of men and women who chose another way of living: the way of Jesus. The Church of the Brethren, begun three centuries ago in Germany, still draws people who want to continue Jesus' work of faithfulness and loving service.
Though the Brethren as a group have existed for three hundred years, we subscribe to no formal "creed" or set of rules. We simply try to do what Jesus did.
Jesus brought a message of life, love, and hope. But he offered much more than inspiring words: He understood that people's spiritual needs also include day-to-day human ones — food, health, rest, comfort, friendship, and unconditional acceptance. "I am the way," he told his followers. He showed them how to trust, how to care, and how to help.
Steadily, lovingly, even radically, Jesus went about saving the world — by serving its people. Because we believe his message, we seek to do the same. from http://www.brethren.org/about/
Ashes to ashes to ashes, dust to dust,
In "Lenten Discipline," her sermon on Luke's version of the temptation of Jesus in the desert, Barbara Brown Taylor gives a wonderful description of how Lent came to be. After all, Lent's not in the Bible--it's really more of a "church thing." Many years after Jesus had not returned as quickly as expected, Taylor explains, the followers of Jesus had learned to accommodate their own lives to the surrounding culture, finding "no contradiction between being comfortable and being Christian."
So much for martyrdom, bold witness and challenging the powers that be, speaking out or standing up for the poor and the marginalized. Instead, Taylor says, our ancestors in faith "decided to be nice instead of holy and God moaned out loud" (Home by Another Way).
So the church dug deep into its faith story, recalling the time (always with the number forty involved) that Israel, Elijah, and Jesus each spent in the desert, wandering and suffering, longing and learning: hungry. In response to this hunger, this emptiness, this longing, the church, Taylor says, created Lent as "a springtime of the soul." (In fact, the English word "Lent" comes from the word for "spring.")
Like our own urge to clean house in the spring, the church recognized the need for a spiritual spring cleaning as well and offered "[f]orty days to cleanse the system and open the eyes to what remains when all comfort is gone…to live by the grace of God alone and not by what we can supply ourselves" (Home by Another Way).