Lenten season gives us opportunity to ‘get it right’
We were having brunch in a local restaurant; the late morning sun spilled across the white tablecloth and ricocheted through a water glass on the table.
I am not having a glass of wine with brunch, I said to my niece. Why, she asked.
I’ve given it up for Lent, I commented.
Why, she asked. Her question, her way of asking reminded me when she was 4 and I was 14 and she would ask why. I was usually either at the kitchen sink or stove and she was sitting on a chair, next to a yellow Formica table.
It was not a challenging question; nor was it dismissive or cynical; it was an open-ended wondering that invited thinking and discussion.
So I was thinking before I responded to her question. Why indeed do observant Christians “give up” something for Lent? For the observant, what is Lent about anyway?
I heard a pastor say recently at a recent Ash Wednesday service that it was about more than eggs and ham. The pastor’s comment, like my niece’s question, leads me to thinking. What is it about anyway?
Most of us know the story; could recite it in our sleep. It is not an easy story, for it involves doubt, betrayal, crucifixion, sorrow; it is not an easy journey to relive that story. Why do it then?
We do it, it seems to me, because it reminds us that we are part of a larger narrative whose ending has not yet been written. We are a thread in a universal cloth, connected to the whole and responsible for its care and endurance. In this particular story, whether you believe it to be a story or a truth, you can choose where you are going to stand, what position you are going to take.
Whatever position you take, it is a stance that is ever changing. Faith embraced will be faith challenged; love given can turn to love forsaken; friendship forged may become friendship betrayed; joy that abounds one day may become sorrow endured the next.
Hope however endures. The betrayal, however onerous, is subject to forgiveness; love lost may become love regained; faith challenged is faith strengthened.
Lent is a dark opera, with objectionable characters, much like you and I. When the last scene unfolds however, those same characters fraught with human foibles are lifted up, held aloft by a long standing promise of redemption. Darkness becomes light again.
It is a story which repeats itself down through the centuries and will go on being told for centuries to come. Lent is a time when we can take the time to remind ourselves of the part we play in the stories unfolding, and the opportunity we have to get it right.