Of all the seasons in the Church year, Lent is the one to which I’m most drawn. It’s a season of spiritual reset and reorientation, a deliberate move to be joined to the story of Jesus.
While I appreciate the other seasons of the Church year, Lent is the one which absolutely refuses to make space for plastic, poured-in-a-mold, Christianity. Lent doesn’t have time for fake smiles, or attempts to declare a confidence which is not actually felt. Lent begins with a reminder we are dust, and dust is our earthly destiny. The inauthenticity of plastic Christianity is difficult to pull off in the face of our mortality 1.
During Lent we are encouraged to acknowledge the messes we actually are, and then kneel humbly before the Lord of Heaven and Earth to declare, “Here I am, Lord, will you take me?”
And Jesus says yes.
In the West we tend to misunderstand the whole point of a Lenten fast or discipline 2. The fast 3 isn’t about demonstrating our spiritual strength, or losing a few pounds, or making a fashionable societal statement. It’s about recognizing both our weakness and our utter dependence on Christ’s strength and mercy. It’s not about telling Jesus how great we are to give up important things, it’s about asking Jesus, “Will you take the time my meager offerings take from my life and use it to focus me on you?”
I know many people nowadays don’t have a great deal of experience with religion, and so might find a prayer to be focused on Jewish rabbi from 2000 years ago odd 4. I can understand the oddness of it, but focusing on Jesus means being brought into tune with his teaching.
Jesus is the one who said, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth 5.”
Jesus declared to this disciples, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy 6.”
Jesus flipped the world upside down when he informed his followers, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven 7.”
Jesus is the one who told people, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes 8?”
It’s teaching like this which led Jesus to the Cross on behalf of all humanity. And Lent is meant to bring us into sync with with Christ as he went to the cross. On this journey we long for the resurrection, and the gracious joy on the other side of suffering — and through the process we are launched into the world in humble service.
Lent is a joy.
- Not impossible, mind you. But difficult. ↩
- We even tend to forget the idea of doing something positive during Lent is part of the discipline. ↩
- Otherwise known as “giving something up.” ↩
- Or even something to be despised, referring to Jesus as a “Jewish Zombie” has become popular way to dismiss the Christian faith among more evangelical atheists. ↩
- Matthew 5:5 ↩
- Matthew 5:7 ↩
- Matthew 5:43-45a ↩
- Matt. 6:25 ↩