by Rev. Dr. Daniel C. Wilburn
I am thinking about Lent. I am worried that most Evangelical Christians will not participate in Lent because they are worried about exercising shallow, vain, punitive “works righteousness.” That’s a good caution. We want to live in grace, not works.
Except we need Lent. We need Lent to rattle our cage. We need to be disrupted. We need to “Awake O sleeper, rise from the dead! and Christ will shine on you.”
Lent is like taking your car in for a 90,000 mile check up. We don’t just need the tires rotated and an oil change, we need the values set, and the timing belt replaced. Yes that’s right, our timing has become sloppy. We just don’t know what time it is. Perhaps we are just getting up and doing the same drill each day. By “time” I mean ‘what season are we in?’ ‘What “right-time” is it?’ (Greek: kairos) “Wake up!” The worst place to be is to not even know we are living each day without Jesus. We are sleep walking. The clock just ticks. The car is – just a car in slow disrepair.
Lent is a time of self-examination. We ask, “Am I close to God?” “Does God have my full allegiance?” “Have I bowed my knee to King Jesus?””Will I go with him to the cross?”
There are many ways to draw close to Jesus during Lent. Giving up soda or chocolate has to be some of the most silly ideas. Scot McKnight has the best book about this sort of false thing. He book is simply called Fasting. Rather than punishing one’s self with abstinence (dieting?), we do better to read a book like this one. Or how about read the entire Gospel of Mark?
Lent follows the Gospel path of Jesus: a) into the desert where he is tempted and he resists; b) ministry and the journey toward Jerusalem even though everyone thinks that’s a death-wish, but Jesus has a bigger story to follow; c) the cross, d) the Sabbath sleep, e) resurrection, and f) the participation of heaven, and heaven on earth (new creation and the church).
This note is but a brief cage rattle. We need the transformation of the mind (Romans 12). We need new thinking but we get there with new bodily disciplines – not only information. We need resurrection, but we should follow Jesus and go through the desert and the cross (death to self) to get there. Our aim is resurrection. So I will leave off here with a thought from Augustine. (4th c. AD)
The body is dead – why is it dead? – because of sin. But the spirit is life, because of justice. So do we leave the body dead, then? No, but listen: But if the Spirit of of him who raised Christ from the dead dwells within you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies. So you see: now the body receives its life from the soul, but then it will receive it from the Spirit.
Get it? Now our mind, heart and strength (the soul) fight sin. But at the resurrection the Holy Spirit gives us our life. That is why we no longer sin. That is how we are physically and bodily resurrected.
Lent is the season to chew on such thick thoughts. Take the journey. Put on your boots, grab your backpack, cinch up the belt, take hold of your walking staff, set your eyes on the path, and step out your front door.