Thursday, March 6, 2014

All of me ~ for Lent

It’s the second day of Lent.  You already know that.  By now, you’ve likely read what everyone else is giving up, adding, and practicing for the next 40 days.  Perhaps you have some disciplines of your own that you’re using to observe the season leading up to Easter.  You may have read articles such as this one, posted at Patheos, extolling the spiritual benefits of Lenten observations.  Or this heavy-hitter by Krista Dalton reminding us that care for the poor is how we are to worship God and draw nearer Christ. 

Though it’s possible you swing the other way, as Daniel Kassis articulates in “What is a Protestant to Make of Lent?”  Wherein he remarks, as is popular thought among many fundamental evangelicals, the signature mark of freedom in Christ is being “set free from observances, expectations, and demands that come from religious obligation;” meaning there is “no need to follow such practices, as they have no power to make us holier or ‘closer to God.’”[1] 

I’ve written on this topic before, but for the sake of clarity I’ll be brief: that’s crap.  Yes, we are only holy {read: set apart, righteous} through our faith in Jesus Christ.  However, as Christ-followers, we all have observances, expectations, and demands—Communion or baptism, anyone?  How about the order of service: three worship songs during which the congregation stands, a sermon delivered while the audience sits, congregants singing one more song, and then everybody goes home?—to which we adhere in our worship of God.  I remind my anti-liturgical sisters and brethren that if we claim to follow Christ, we are religious.  But not to worry, Jesus was religious, too.  He observed feasts and holy days and Sabbaths; he fasted and prayed, and told his followers to do the same.  Because, as fully Divine and fully Human, the Lord Jesus Christ knew that humans need disciplines to get their minds, bodies, and spirits to stop focusing on themselves and draw their attention to God.  We need rhythms and seasons and practices to get our wayward minds and wandering hearts back to where they’re supposed to be: focusing on God and caring for each other. 

This is what happens when we do Ash Wednesday at home.

I am again this year aiming for a holistic approach: body, mind, spirit, and hope. 

·         Body: I am practicing clean eating.  To heal the damage my gluttony has caused.  Lord, have mercy.

·         Mind: I am reading Wright’s tome on Pauline theology and the corresponding scriptures.  To find unity and justice in the words meant to guide and form us, in these Now-and-in-the-Time-to-Come days.  Christ, have mercy.

·         Spirit:  I am turning off my nightly television and replacing my shows with Psalms and Proverbs.  I am fasting and praying on behalf of a dear friend; I will do so for a brave group of women setting out on a pilgrimage towards healing.  I am praying and memorizing a prayer, by St. Francis of Assisi, which I will share with you in days to come.  To bend my life more into Christ’s likeness.  Lord, have mercy.

·         Hope: I am working on a project that has long lived in my heart, to be completed by Easter.  It is in faith that I look toward this finish line and the usefulness of this project; that people may know the fullness of hope that is Jesus Christ in them.  Christ, have mercy

Because Lent illuminates our fallen-ness.

Because Lent leads to sacrifice.

Because Lent is, ultimately, about hope.

Hope that we can be Christ to the poor and outcast and hurting.  Hope that we can put aside our different ideas and care for each other.  Hope that no matter the circumstance, we can offer the love and healing of our Lord Jesus Christ.


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