Brick Making In Lent

Brick Making In Lent March 13, 2019

This is an interesting piece—basically about how we should, as Christians, be doubling down on the theological weight of Sabbath Rest, not excusing ourselves from this central building block of God’s perfect plan for humanity with worries about legalism. We’re all making bricks, he said, for other people, and it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to stop and rest awhile. It’s the second time I’ve heard the expression “Big Eva.” Which is not an unkind name for the nice lady in the pew next to you, in case you haven’t been on twitter. It’s another rendition, I think, of The Evangelical Industrial Complex, a term I’ve always rather enjoyed.

He says this somewhere in the middle:

My concern is that too many church leaders pooh-pooh the busyness of their people and constantly call them out of it, but merely to call them to a sanctified version of that busyness that, at its heart, is simply another version of brick making: “Hey you’re way too busy over there in your office/work/home, how about you come and be way too busy over here instead, for the right thing.”

Ouch. Boy can that be true, especially in Lent. One task building upon another, with a conference or something coming up, an event here or there, another group that has to meet this week because it’s already March and the year is basically over. After fifteen minutes you don’t have time to sweep the tiny bits of paper up off the floor of a classroom because of all the Very Important Work and Places You Have To be.

Americans do like to be busy. God must like us better if we are always on to the next task, always casting another vision. It carries us through from the pack-and-play to the nursing home. When I go to visit my favorite homebound church ladies, those who cannot remember one day from another, I am always surprised by what carries the conversation along. The verbal ticks that bind categories of thought and language together, when whole chunks of remembered life are falling away, mostly relate to the tasks that kept you going in your youth.

So even though you are comfortably sitting there in a warm armchair, covered in a soft, knitted Afghan, you still try to grasp on to the fact that you should, or maybe just did, clean out those cupboards in the church kitchen—a room you haven’t been able to go into for years.

Or if the pastor didn’t visit you last week because he had a bad cold, you send a message to him via your current visitor that you are very upset about the vestments not being properly laundered. “What vestments?” asks your devoted sister in Christ who has just brought you communion. “The ones that need to be washed,” you say in full-throated frustration. And you are not wrong. They should have been washed two months ago. They’ve  been sitting around on the to-do list all that time, pushed down because there were always three other more pressing tasks jockeying for your attention. How did you know? Probably because the work follows you even on your inexorable march to the grave. There was always more you should have done.

When I am old and confused, you can be assured that all we will talk about are all the tasks I never completed. I won’t remember the day, or the hour, or what I ate for breakfast. But I will be able to tell you in detail how because I once left an open bag of flour in a low cupboard, I was never able to completely deal with the mouse problem.

I want to rest. I really do. But first I have to bash through my email box again, and my laundry baskets, and the school quarter ending that’s looming over me. Also, Lent, for me, means narrowing my way into Holy Week where the work mounts up to a tower practically scraping the sky.

How strange it is that the moment when God took upon himself the full weight of my failure to work myself to glory should also be the moment I have the most to do. That’s what we humans like best. We like to match God, step by step, brick by brick, trying to construct some meaning out of the labor of our hands. When really, by sitting down on the rock of his gracious mercy, the Meaning, or rather the Person, is there to feast over and enjoy.

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have So Much To Do.

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