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  • Writer's pictureThe Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples

Lent or Lint | March 17, 2024 Rev. Dr. Dorsey Blake


The Disciples’ Prayer

Mother of us all,

who dwells within and beyond,

Sacred is your name.

May your holy vision for collective flourishing

come to fruition among us.

May your dreams of justice, love, compassion, and connection be enfleshed on earth.

Provide us today with what we need to be nourished in body, soul, and heart.

Forgive us for the harm we cause as we seek to forgive those who have harmed us.

Lead us away from everything that destroys and liberate us from the hands of evil.

For you are the ultimate source of hope.

Your power-with exceeds all power-over.

Your presence incites eternal wonder.

All praise to you, our comfort and strength.

Amen.


For many in the Christian tradition, this is the Season of Lent. It is a journey of 40 days leading to the celebration of Easter. The word Lent comes from the Old English word that connotes the Season of Spring following the Winter Season. Spring is a time of lengthening days, renewal, rejuvenation, regrowth, and resurrection. The prefix “re” means back or again, a return to a previous reality or state. Lent is a season of return, remembering, and symbolic reenactment of the forty days Jesus spent in wilderness readying himself for the ministry that summoned him. The Disciples Prayer outlines that ministry:  collective flourishing coming into fruition; justice, love, compassion, and connection being incarnated on earth; nourishment adequate to sustain the whole being – body, soul, and heart; forgiveness for transgressions against others and us; and liberation from those things that impede liberation.


Fasting for forty days to remove impediments that block living in oneness with the God of Life, the All-Pervading Presence, the Great Creator of Existence is a goal of Lent. There is some affinity with removing lint from one’s clothing so that we and our clothes look as good as possible. However, Lent has no brush or washing machine filter. It concerns itself not with looking good on the outside but with being authentic and devoid of lint on the inside. One of the approaches to participating in Lent is to fast as a way of emptying oneself so that God can more fully occupy the vacated territory.

Isaiah reminds us of a deeper understanding of fasting very much aligned with The Disciples Prayer.


“Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:

to loose the chains of injustice    

and untie the cords of the yoke,

to set the oppressed free    

and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry    

and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—

when you see the naked, to clothe them,    

and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,    

and your healing will quickly appear;

then your righteousness[a] will go before you,    

and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;    

you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression,    

with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry    

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed

then your light will rise in the darkness,    

and your night will become like the noonday.

11 The Lord will guide you always;    

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land    

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,    

like a spring whose waters never fail.

-Isaiah 58:6-11 (NIV)


Isaiah explains how we are to come into unity with Life, with the source and goal of our desiring. The prophet Micah is even more emphatic.


With what shall I come before the Lord    

and bow down before the exalted God?

Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,    

with calves a year old?

7 Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,    

with ten thousand rivers of olive oil?

Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression,    

the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?

8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.    

And what does the Lord require of you?

To act justly and to love mercy    

and to walk humbly with your God.


Lent may be a time to give up something. It is also a time to take on something, something that nourishes the outwardness of the spiritual life within the exigencies of life. It is a forum that speaks to the heartbreaks and fortifies what is within.


If Jesus’ wilderness experience is the foundation of Lent, then we must look more seriously into that experience for illumination of our own. Jesus was compelled to embrace wilderness as a result of his baptism and affirmation that he was called to minister to those he encountered consistent with the passages from Isaiah and Micah. Jesus’ time in the wilderness was prelude to what would play out in his life. He needed to ready his spirit for the arduous and illuminating life he was to live. To be ordained as he was with the seeming appearance of a descending dove was a beginning for answering his truth but that was different from determining his vocational mission. Now, he had to wrestle with the demons within that would prevent him from obeying his calling with all the demons along the way that sought to derail that mission. He needed time to clear within his head and heart what he was called to be and to do. There would be myriad expectations of him, family, friends, strangers, disciples, and people of secular and religious authority. These expectations would contradict each other and his own. Wilderness presented him with a time and a place of both retreat and advance. I refer to wilderness not just as physical landscape but also landscape to the soul. This was a time of searching and claiming the genuine, authentic, and therefore authoritative self.


This was a self that would face annihilation.





The journey would not be merely philosophical or theological. Before him was a vision of a radically transformed society. This meant that the people had to be radically transformed. These were people who though oppressed had compromised their lives to live in pseudo-peace. The fleshpots of Egypt were constantly in their consciousness. People would misunderstand his purpose for living and the abundant life he would offer them. It was tantamount that he needed to understand who he was.


He left wilderness also knowing that what he was to accomplish could not be accomplished alone.  Community was required to establish new community. Wilderness prepared him for barrenness and stones and places where there could be no growth. Lent is a time when the noble and mundane questions of life mingle fasting and nourishment. Lent is not complete when the forty days have elapsed. Renewal, rejuvenation, regrowth, resurrection are partners in moving from wilderness into the society that needs to be born. Jesus was upfront with potential followers/companions declaring that the companionship and sojourn could cost them dearly. There would be times when the Son of God would have no place to lay his weary head when he was weary, tired, fractured, and in need of rest, and neither would they. The experience would seem like a cross weighing on the bodies, souls, and their lives. Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated: “When Christ calls a person, he bids him come and die."


Lent reminds us that Jesus confronted serious temptations in the wilderness. Yet, he came forth with great resolve to live so abundantly that he radically altered the landscape of his time that we still feel 2,000 years later. Lent bids us to step in that light and see what the end shall be.





” Lent in its most profound sense prepares opens us that possibility. There is more than one kind of wilderness. There is the wilderness of the soul, an often lonely, aching place. There is the wilderness of the world, a place where words of love are everywhere yet people hunger for love because the imitations of love that perfuse our society leave us empty, aching, hungry."

– Dr. Wilda C. Gafney

 

 

 

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