Lent arrives this Wednesday. That only clicked in this morning. Even though I’ve made plans for the congregation I serve, I hadn’t really prepared myself for the beginning of this season. Not yet. I hadn’t given any thought toward how I want to approach this season in my relationship with God. This finally clicked in when I read this reflection on the Lenten journey.
I don’t have these memories of Lent. I grew up in that kind of United Church of Christ where Easter arrived quickly the week after Palm Sunday. I don’t remember anything else but the palms and the Easter Bunny. That changed later on when I entered into the laboratory of worship in my seminary. I learned seasons. I moved through the Revised Common Lectionary. I realized that these cycles and seasons resonated with how I wanted to be in the world.
There was a wee problem though. I have a non-traditional version of atonement. More or less, I reject anything sacrificial. Not because I don’t think that new life doesn’t mean that something has to die. On the contrary, I don’t want to emphasize the sacrifice. I want to mourn it. I want there to be space to grieve — which is how I will always seek to be living into Good Friday. I don’t believe that Jesus died for my sins. There are days that I’m not even sure that Jesus died for sin. That’s right. I’m a heretic. I do believe that Jesus died because of how he lived. I think that the Christ’s intense love for humanity and this created world was too much for the corrupt powers that wanted to supremacy. And when powers collide, something often dies. Often tragically. Rarely does that happen with enough grief.
Luckily, I’m not alone in this faith. There are others that share my heresy. So, in years past, I have read their words. I’ve absorbed the blessed words in Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire. When the Gospel of Judas appeared, I read Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity. I’ve cherished the words that carried me through Holy Week one year in The Last Week: What the Gospels Really Teach About Jesus’s Final Days in Jerusalem. I’ve read a lot of words. I like words. And I’m quite sure there will be another book that will guide me through this Lent again. Something beyond the journey I’m already on with The Artist’s Way. I didn’t want this to be my journey for Lent. Instead, I wanted to figure out a way to practice death.
I know. It sounds morbid. I promise you I’m not that morbid. Instead, I’m thinking about the journey the congregation I serve will go on to consider death. I adapted a series of materials from the United Church of Christ’s Faithfully Facing Dying. Somehow, I want to find a way to integrate that journey with my personal practice. This is what I wrote about for three pages in my morning pages. I mused about what I think sin is right now and how I want to engage that in this particular season. I wrote about this for about a page before I finally concluded that I have no idea. I know my understanding is changing but I can’t quite put my finger on it yet. So, here’s what I think Lent will be about this year. Being quiet. Stop trying to explain every little thing. Listen more carefully. Just be still. For once. Maybe even for six weeks. I think that might be the only way I can imagine to practice dying to myself in the hope of rebirth.