“What are you giving up for Lent?”
“It must be something very dear.”
“What do you hope to win by it?”
(As if one quenched the sun by saying,
There is a song in silence
That sound could never sing.
There is a light in darkness
That suns could never bring.
There is a love in loneliness,
That baffles ecstasy.
Call me, beloved, I shall not come,
I go…to Calvary.
“The Christian religion asks us to place our trust not in ideas, and certainly not in ideologies, but in a God who was vulnerable enough to become human and die, and who desires to be present to us in our everyday circumstances. And because we are human, it is in the realm of the daily and mundane that we must find our way to God.”
-Kathleen Norris, The Quotidian Mysteries
-caravaggio, taking of Christ
‘guilty, vile, and helpless we;
spotless lamb of God was he;
full atonement! can it be?
hallelujah! what a savior!
There is a hope that lifts my weary head,
A consolation strong against despair,
That when the world has plunged me in its deepest pit,
I find the Saviour there!
Through present sufferings, future’s fear,
He whispers ‘courage’ in my ear.
For I am safe in everlasting arms,
And they will lead me home.
-Stuart Townend, There is a Hope
As I meditate on Jesus’s passionate prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, his human agony and suffering on full display, I am reminded how often I also long for God to provide another way for me in the face of suffering. All Christians struggle with following Jesus down the via dolorosa, the way of suffering. We are more comfortable with following Jesus in his victorious into Jerusalem to be enthroned and crowned the king. We often clamor for that kind of victory borne out in our lives as the absence of difficulty or struggle. We are tempted towards the glory and the grandeur of Palm Sunday. But as author Kim Reisman has noted, “[T]hat is not the Jesus way. God doesn’t dispense with death. God resurrects us from it. The truth is that the Jesus way isn’t about God taking pain away from God’s people; it’s about God providing us with strength, courage, and meaning, with abundant life, often in the midst of pain.”
I am always thankful then, for this very human portrait of Jesus struggling with his own suffering in agony. Jesus struggled as I do. And while I often reluctantly say to God, “Not my will but yours be done,” I put my faith in the God who is able to transform the evil of suffering and affliction into salvation and death into life for all who believe.
Sit with me and tell me once again
Of the story that’s been told us
Of the power that will hold us
Of the beauty, of the beauty
Why it matters
Speak to me until I understand
Why our thinking and creating
Why our efforts of narrating
About the beauty, of the beauty
And why it matters
Like the statue in the park
Of this war torn town
And it’s protest of the darkness
And the chaos all around
With its beauty, how it matters
How it matters
Show me the love that never fails
The compassion and attention
Midst confusion and dissention
Like small ramparts for the soul
How it matters
Like a single cup of water
How it matters
-Sara Groves, “Why it matters”
“Nature trembled and said with astonishment:
What new mystery is this?
The Judge is judged and remains silent;
the Invisible One is seen and does not hide himself;
the Incomprehensible One is comprehended and does not resist;
the Unmeasurable One is measured and does not struggle;
the One beyond suffering suffers and does not avenge himself;
the Immortal One dies and does not refuse death.
What new mystery is this?”
-Second-century bishop Melito of Sardis
Check out this powerful, beautiful, and free! lenten playlist from Red Mountain Music that I recently stumbled across. (tips suggested!)
And if you are wanting more, here is the link to the one I put together last year as well.
May this season be meaningful and rich and we continue to journey through lent.
To bow the head
In sackcloth and in ashes,
Or rend the soul,
Such grief is not Lent’s goal;
But to be led
To where God’s glory flashes,
His beauty to come nigh,
To fly, to fly,
To fly where truth and light do lie.
For is not this
The fast that I have chosen? –
The prophet spoke –
To shatter every yoke,
The grievous bands to loosen,
Oppression put to flight,
To fight, to fight,
To fight till every wrong’s set right.
And peace will show their faces
To those who feed
The hungry in their need,
And wrongs redress,
Who build the old waste places,
And in the darkness shine.
Divine it is when all combine!
Then shall your light
Break forth as doth the morning;
Your health shall spring,
The friends you make shall bring
God’s glory bright,
Your way through life adorning
And love shall be the prize.
Arise! and make a paradise!
-P. Dearmer (1867-1936), hymn: White Lent
“Mary Magdalene thought the resurrected Christ was a gardener because Jesus still had the dirt from his own tomb under his nails. Of course, the depictions in churches of the risen Christ never show dirt under his nails; they make him look more like a wingless angel than a gardener. It’s as if he needed to be cleaned up for Easter visitors so he looked more impressive and so no one would be offended by the truth. But then what we all end up with is a perverted idea of what resurrection looks like. My experience, however, is that the God of Easter is a God with dirt under his nails.
Resurrection never feels like being made clean and nice and pious like in those Easter pictures. I would have never agreed to work for God if I had believed God was interested in trying to make me nice or even good. instead, what I subconsciously knew, even back then, was that God was never about making me spiffy: God was about making me new.
New doesn’t always look perfect. Like the Easter story itself, new is often messy. New looks like recovering alcoholics. New looks like reconciliation between family members who don’t actually deserve it. New looks like every time I manage to admit I was wrong and every time I manage to not mention when I’m right. New looks like every fresh start and every act of forgiveness and every moment of letting go of what we thought we couldn’t live without and then somehow living without it anyway. New is the thing we never saw coming-never even hoped for-but ends up being what we needed all along.
“It happens to all of us,” I concluded that Easter Sunday morning. “God simply keeps reaching down in to the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. And God keeps loving us back into life over and over.”
-Nadia Bolz-Weber, Pastrix