Monday, March 27, 2017

Lent drags on

Lent is dragging on. For weeks at church we have been reading the words of Jesus in the sermon on the mount. If you have read it you know it can drag you down. There is a lot in there about what we are not doing very well. Praying too piously, giving too proudly (this past week as I dropped a big bill into the offering plate I hoped others would notice it on top of all the smaller ones) and not making peace very easily. Reminders of what a drag we are. When I was a kid my church told me not to worry about that Jesus sermon because it was meant for the life of heaven when we will be perfect. That was good because it would take a perfect person to live that way. All we had to do, I was told. was ask Jesus to forgive our sins since he had already died for them and we were in the clear with a few right words being said. As I got older and read some other interpretations of Jesus' sermon I was bothered to learn that some people believed Jesus was talking about the life of the kingdom the way it is to be lived now. A few words do not save us rather it takes a life of dying to self and cross bearing. Lent reminds me how much I don't like death and how heavy the cross can be.

I long for Easter. In the East, among Christians, Easter is a much bigger deal than Christmas. For us, in the West, it's the reverse. Easter is mostly a time for Spring Break and more of us are on beaches than in churches. I think that's because Lent is not a drag. It is the time of anticipation for Spring that is coming to end our winters that have been a drag.

In the East, among Christians there is a stronger sense of celebration at Easter. Maybe it is because their lives have been more deprived of material goods and their lives more precarious and less peacable. They have had to bear more crosses. Life is harder, they read the Beattitudes more hopefully. For us, in the West, who have accepted Jesus as our Savior the issue of eternal life has been taken care of with a few rightly chosen words. Christ suffered and died for us on a cross. The cross was born by his back. So, we get to go to the beach.

I just read a book about the gospel and what a person had to believe to be saved. There was nothing about the sermon on the mount in there. You had to believe in the preexistence of Christ, and the virgin birth, and the deity of Christ and the crucifixion and the resurrection and a few other things but not the drag of Lent. Not the shared suffering and cross bearing. Not the dying to self.

Lent drags on until Easter. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ (15:20-22). Sharing the suffering and cross bearing leads to sharing the Life of Christ. Stanley Hauerwas says all we need to know about resurrection is what we are privileged to witness in Jesus' victory over death. There God subjected all things that gain their power from death to the Son making it possible (for us) to share in that subjection through the gift of the Holy Spirit. All we need to know about the resurrection we have been given through the sharing of the body and blood of Jesus.

Lent drags on but it doesn't last forever.

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