Saturday, February 26, 2011

Approaching Lent

It's been a wonderful Saturday, "slow" but not unproductive. Have you ever realized how easy it is to feel lazy when the day is slower? Such a misnomer of our culture: that busy living equals productivity and purpose. There's such purpose in stillness and production in just being. Today I've cleaned and organized (a little), made a few phone calls, read (Anne Lamott, Plan B), made soup broth, sat on the couch and prayed (or tried to), journaled, caught up on emails...I'll still be going to work this evening. I rather enjoy the occasional Saturday evening with the kiddos :) But right now, before that, in the stillness of today while the snow (still) falls out my window, I'm thinking about Lent. I'm thinking about approaching the intentional time of God-reliance with new thoughts, needed questions, simple conversation.
God, I always need you. Many days it seems like I live to forget that I need you; instead trying to prove to myself or others that I'm strong enough to do it on my own. Soon there's a season to help us frame our need in the context of your story--help us locate ourselves, again, in your find the freedom, peace, and rest that are there.

I came across this brief article today in Sojourners. While I'm not always a fan of the way they frame some of their stories, I appreciate this contribution by Walter Brueggemann on Lent:

"Lent is a time for “following.” The narrative about Jesus’ suffering and death provides a way in which we are able, in an act of disciplined imagination, to situate (or resituate) our lives in the story of Jesus. We become aware that the story of Jesus requires and permits a new version of our own story of life and faith.

Lent is a time for fresh decision-making about reliance upon the God of the gospel. Such decision-making in Lent is commonly called “repentance.” It’s a time to reflect on the way in which God gives new life that is welcome when we recognize how our old way of life mostly leaves us weary and unsatisfied.
Lent is a time to face the reality that there is no easy or “convenient” passage from our previous life to a new, joyous life in the gospel. The move is by the pattern and sequence of Jesus’ own life, an embrace of suffering that comes with obedience, a suffering which comes inevitably when our lives are at odds with dominant social values.
Lent is a time for life with God. While Jesus’ suffering and death are quite public events in the Roman Empire, his prayers—echoing the psalms—evidence that his primary focus was on life with God. In Lent we may draw away from public life enough to give energy to this defining relationship with the God who hears and answers, who summons, forgives, and saves."
Walter Brueggemann, a Sojourners contributing editor, is professor emeritus at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia.
I'm still trying to determine what it is I will "give up" this year or how I will act out my dependence on the one whose sufficiency is my life. Last year I gave up worry (see here). Yes, it was a difficult time wrought with failure upon failure but it taught me a lot about what it means to live to be God's--to be kept, held, upheld, and known but the one who is shaping me.
"What is Better?
Isaiah 55:1-9; Psalm 63:1-8; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Luke 13:1-9
Lent is a time for making decisions about God’s good news and our life in the world. The decisions pose the question: “What is better?” In Psalm 63, we get an answer, “God’s steadfast love is better than life.” The psalm evokes a plethora of images: God’s fidelity is like water in a weary land; a feast of rich food; a shadow amid the hot sun; a strong hand that keeps one from falling. The psalm invites reflection on God’s reliability, for which there is no adequate substitute in our busy world of consumerism.
Corinthians is more concrete. Here the alternative is to “desire evil.” The phrase gives Paul a chance to review ancient history as an “example.” That memory includes the golden calf (Exodus 32; 1 Corinthians 10:7-8) and murmuring in the wilderness (Numbers 21:4-6; 1 Corinthians 10:9). The “desire of evil” is an alternative of self-sufficiency, of shaping our “gods” according to our convenience. To “desire evil” in our contemporary society is to imagine that with enough power, goods, and control one does not need the gift of fidelity.
Isaiah’s poem sets the choice that God’s people are always making—free water, milk, and bread, or the rat-race of self sufficiency. “Seek the Lord” is an invitation to abandon self-sufficiency for life in the gospel. Luke, with its two odd case studies, is preoccupied with “repentance” and the call to “bear fruit.” The hard part is choosing to live differently. That is always the important part, now as it was then. Life in the rat-race makes us “prey for jackals” (Psalm 63:10) without time to bless and thank God (Psalm 63:6)."
Lent is 'Come to Jesus' Time. by Walter Brueggemann. Sojourners Magazine, March 2010 (Vol. 39, No. 3, pp. 48). Living the Word.

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