Lent and What Matters

Job 1:21
And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (ESV)

For some people, Lent, like the rest of what Christianity offers, seems out of touch with reality. For some Christians it seems out of touch with theology. And besides this, aren’t we overcome with our fears of Coronavirus? If that doesn’t get us, maybe it will be cancer, or an accident, or, as some sarcastically suggest, a fatal paralysis brought on by overexposure to cable TV’s coverage of the election. So, what does Lent have to do with anything in 2020? What good is it? Aren’t authentic, modern believers past all such quirky, churchy traditions? Even if some “nominal” believers in that “other denomination” give up chocolate, wine, or Netflix for Lent, why does it matter?

It doesn’t. That’s the point. The first point of this season we call Lent is that little of we think matters really matters at all. You are going to die anyway, so you can stop hiding under your desk. Something will kill you. You are a day closer to it happening. Also, most of the things that you are working to the point of exhaustion to maintain, like your health or your bank account, will be drained down to nothing, certainly well before the end of the century. Whatever you have you will lose. That’s not negative thinking, that’s Lent. It’s a rehearsal or a renewal of the process of learning what you have when you lose everything. It is designed to bring you face-to-face with Christ. Fasting is like Lent in a bottle, available anytime of the year to anyone who is willing. Every need we feel acutely, like hunger, is an illustration of our primary need for Christ. When we let physical hunger remind us that we are spiritually hungry, we move toward wholeness and holiness as human beings.

For the 40 days (not counting the Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to the eve of Easter Sunday, we are called to stop… again… to face the fact that everything in our lives will stop soon enough. Are you really living your life? Let Lent show you the ways you are not. Let Lent show you what doesn’t matter. Let Lent pave the way in your heart and mind for a full, fresh view of the Crucified and Resurrected Christ.

Last of all, Lent is private. It is between you and God. Something needs to be.

Matthew 6:16–18
“And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, [18] that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (ESV)

 

Perspective

2 Kings 6:17 – Then Elisha prayed and said, “O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (ESV)

My eyes give me limited information about my context. My emotions fill in the blanks. I don’t ask, “What do I see?” I ask, “What does this mean?” Elisha’s servant woke up and saw that they were surrounded by an army. He knew this meant that they were toast. Elisha prayed for him and his eyes, but God changed more than what his eyes could see. God changed what the man thought about it. That’s what God can do for me right now in every area of my life. I need a change in my thinking. I see my life in disarray; it’s a mess of undone to-dos. A hostile army of small piles strikes fear in me. How will I ever get through this? Will I ever catch up? Then I think of my kids and how undone to-dos with them just disappear. If I procrastinate with them long enough I might forfeit my opportunity to have a talk or to play a game or to spend some time with them. There’s time and then there’s parent-time. Kids don’t wait for their parents to catch up. They can’t. They grow and get older and that’s it. It makes me want to burn the piles.

What I resort to instead is escape. I waste time in order to feel better about not having enough time to get things done. Then I feel defeated even before lifting a sword or a finger. I do nothing because I feel bad about doing nothing. This paralysis is my clue. I know I need a new perspective. “Show me Your army surrounding what I fear, Lord. Replace my paralysis with peace and my anxiety with action. Give me courage and faith. I lack both, but I know you give both upon request. Your Word is my Elisha this morning. Thank You for Your generosity and patience. Amen.”