Ok, so last Wednesday I went all grumpy on the idea of Lent, suggesting that it might be getting the Christian story wrong. The back-story on that one is that I have wrestled on and off with the power of rediscovery of church tradition to be a divisive force in the church. The same dynamic I witness with people who get all excited about a particular kind of theology (especially Reformed, but not exclusively) I see working at times in my friends who discover liturgy and church calendar (often through Anglican or Episcopal churches).
But far be it from me to only advocate for one side of an argument, especially when I can come back four days later and offer the other with a good conscience. So I will.
It has struck me over the past several days that Lent has the potential to open our eyes to the fundamental narrative dynamic of the Christian life, namely, its cross-shaped character.
Last year I was teaching my course on Acts-Revelation. I told the class that in the summer I’d be teaching “The Cross in the New Testament,” and they asked, “How is that different from this class?!” That’s when I knew I’d done well.
For a people and nation glutted on excess, power, comfort, and glory, Lent can be a salutary reentry into the cruciform narrative of Christianity. We follow Jesus. And to follow Jesus means to walk the way of the cross.
I still have a beef: that churches would make things all dreary and stop saying “Hallelujah” and all that during these 46 days. In the spirit of those who break their fast on Sunday, I’d suggest that the church itself needs to observe such non-observance as well.
Why? Because the great surprise of the gospel narrative is that we sing “Hallelujah” not in spite of the cross but because of it. We sing hallelujah both because the Lamb has been slain and because we conquer with him through our blood and the word of our testimony.
So yes, be sober. Yes, sacrifice. Yes, exercise renewed discipline. But let’s not forget that these are the reasons to praise as much as (or more than) they are the things that need to be overcome in order to join the heavenly chorus.
[Editor's note: the writer has chosen to give up his Lenten discipline of not observing Lent--but only on Sundays when we all break our fasts in honor of the resurrection of Jesus.]