A Contrarian’s Take on Lent

We’ve reached the mid-point—the third Sunday of Lent.  There’s still a lot of talk in the churchy blogosphere about Lent—much of it about what folks are giving up, trimming back, cutting out.  It’s enough to prick the contrarian nerve that runs not far below the surface of my skin.  It’s enough to make me into a chocolate pusher forcing chocolate on all I meet.

Today, as I was reveling in my contrariness, I heard about a most interesting Lenten practice.  I was at a business lunch.  We were meeting about Home Teams (the small groups that help people make the transition from living on the streets to living in an apartment).  You can imagine that gathered around that table were folks who loved and lived generously.  Folks who gave their time to others.

We got the menus and looked them over.  I heard one of my table mates say, “Looks good.  I’m always hungry these days.”  “Are you on a diet?” one of the others at the table asked incredulously.  “No way,” the skinny one replied.  “I’m living off the equivalent of the Food Stamp allowance during Lent.”  (That’s living sacrificially.)  Then he went on, “We’re giving the difference between what we’re spending now on food and what we usually spend to the food bank.”  That’s living generously!

I read recently about how Quakers approach the life of faith.  They hold no truck with Lenten sacrifice or even Lenten practices if they’re confined to Lent.  Instead Quakers believe that Christians should live every day mindful of Christ’s birth, death and resurrection.1  That got me wondering,

“What would life be like if we lived each day as a mix of the seasons of Lent and Easter and Advent and Christmas and Epiphany?

“What would life be like if, in the midst of the desert times in our life, we watch for signs of new life?

“What would life be like if, in the rhythm of our days, we were aware of both the waitings for and the arrivals of God in our lives and in our midst?”

I wonder—would all that lead to living from confidence in the abundance of God?  Would all that lead to living generously?  Would all that lead to loving extravagantly? This year, on the fifth Sunday of Lent we hear the story of Jesus being anointed with a precious and fragrant oil—“costly perfume” the gospeler says.  The symbol and substance of extravagant love.  Some might see and sniff in that costly perfume the Easter hope of God’s extravagant love.

These days, my colleague feels the gnawing hunger of his sacrificial living.  And yet, I suspect, what keeps him going is the whiff of that extravagant love.

We are called into a community grounded in God’s abundant love.  We share the seasons of our lives with one another.  Together, we live the seasons of God’s life with God’s creation.  Sometimes we walk in tandem with one another; sometimes we follow different paths or walk at a different pace. I imagine us—the Body of Christ—like those Quakers living our days together mindful that Christ’s birth, death and resurrection are always present in our common life.

Together we keep a Holy Lent and Joyous Easter and an Expectant Advent and all the rest of our days.

1 Margalayne Armstrong, “Lent Beyond Easter” at http://www.journeywithjesus.net/Essays/20100301jj.shtml?view=print

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