Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Inconvenience of Lent

Near our house is a church with a lighted marquee sign. It announces their sermon series and activities. I usually read it as I’m walking in the mornings.

Lately, the sign has been announcing Easter weekend activities. Nothing too surprising about that. What did catch my eye is that the church is having an Easter service on Saturday evening. In the midst of the Easter Vigil, there will be a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, one day early. I wonder what it says about our inability to wait, and our worship of convenience.

This Lent has been especially difficult for me. More than I can remember, I’ve kept count of the days. I’ve found it hard not to grumble about what I’ve given up. I am too easily relating to the Israelites who complained all through their forty-year journey in the wilderness. I am having trouble with forty days. I can’t imagine how I’d do with forty years.

But as much as I want to celebrate on Easter, as much as I look forward to the joyous worship of the risen Christ, I know that the waiting of Lent is good for me, and I don’t want to shorten that by even a day. I know that the pain of the Easter Triduum is what makes Easter Sunday such a celebration. I need to have that time to ponder the betrayal, crucifixion and death of Jesus. I need to spend that Saturday reflecting on what the disciples must have felt as they thought that hope was buried when Jesus was put in the tomb.

Lent reminds me that life isn’t all about being secure, safe and comfortable. It is about laying aside what is convenient for me and taking practices that help me to be more compassionate. Our culture worships the gods of convenience and comfort. To step back and deliberately live differently for the forty days of Lent helps me to recognize how much I’ve bought into those gods. Otherwise, I deceive myself and think that I am not a slave to them.

In the book I am studying this Lent, A Place at the Table, author Chris Seay says, “We have allowed our love of freedom to become an excuse to live a life marked by self-absorbed consumerism.” We think it’s our right for life to be about convenience and comfort, that somehow we “deserve” it. In this season of Lent, difficult as it has been for me, I am reminded that I don’t have it hard at all. What I have given up has been my choice. For others, they have no choice.

Gracious and loving God, turn my eyes toward you. May I see you in the eyes of others. May I not run from the discomfort of Lent but live into it. Break my self-absorbed spirit and fill me with compassion for others. May I reject the false gods of convenience and comfort and instead choose to walk in the way of the cross, living for God’s Kingdom. Amen. 

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