Many of us have come through Ash Wednesday services and are now full on into Day 2 of Lenten fasts.
As Aric Clark and I were working through the Lectionary texts for this week, we were struck by how downright unLenten they seemed to be. We read of gifts given to God that come from an abundant harvest (Deuteronomy 26:1-11). We read about confessing the resurrected Christ as Lord over all (Romans 10:8b-13). And we read a psalm that seems to indicate that everything Will. Be. Awesome. for people who love God (Psalm 91:1–2, 9–16).
What a strange way to enter Lent—with a smorgasbord of texts proclaiming abundance, God’s presence, and not Jesus’s death but his resurrection.
But maybe these are just the texts we need to hear.
Maybe this is just the juxtaposition that most of us will be living over the next 40 days.
Maybe we need to remember that, for most the people reading this, fasting is a choice we make in the mist of tremendous affluence and more sustained provision than most people have known over the course of human history.
Maybe we need the narrative of Deuteronomy that reminds us that to have an offering to give to God is, itself, a sign that God has been faithful to God’s covenant promises. If we want to give up something for the sake of God, it is a confession that all we have comes from God’s own hand. If we want to add something for the sake of God’s work in the world, it is a confession that we have been grafted into a people over whom Jesus is Lord.
Maybe we hate fasting. Maybe we hate the removal of comfort, of the normal, of routine, of the pleasure of being regularly filled. Maybe we need to remember that we are not waiting for the crucifixion, though we await Good Friday. We are not waiting for the resurrection, though we do await Easter Sunday. (It’s still Easter.)
Jesus has already been raised from the dead, and that does not go away during Lent. (It’s still Easter.)
Jesus has already been enthroned as Lord at God’s right hand, and that does not go away during Lent. (It’s still Easter.)
Even as our cosmic narrative tells us that Jesus is the enthroned Lord, raised from the dead, we still hear and must heed the call to take up our cross and follow.
In this story there is no glory without the shame of the cross.
Perhaps the greatest temptation we face as western Christians is not thinking that we earned and did everything ourselves, that we have worked for and achieved all the great things we have. Perhaps our greatest temptation is ascribing all of these things to God, thinking that God has chosen to shower us with glory without the way of the cross—or that God has shown us the path of glory and abundance that does not demand of us that we follow Jesus to Calvary.
Take a listen to this week’s LectioCast. See how the talk of life bursting forth in the mist of this world sits alongside the fasting and temptation that Jesus himself had to face. See how they might square with our own.