More than any other season of the liturgical year, Lent draws us into a landscape that is distinctive for the many ways that it intertwines extremes and calls our attention to how brokenness and beauty, horror and hope, privilege and oppression dwell intimately together. From the moment we follow Jesus into the wilderness, we step across a threshold that calls out to us to see beyond the stark black and white of our daily rituals and lives.
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this bittersweet season. Ashes are the first sign and symbol of Lent, but they are not the final word. Come Ash Wednesday, we will bear this mark of what has been left behind from the burning — this reminder of the dust and earth from which we rise and to which we will return. Yet even the ash, just like the lonely tree of winter, has a memory of its own. Deep within its darkness lies the imprint of green, the memory of life, the awareness of what has gone before and of what may yet be.
Ash Wednesday propels us into a holy season that inspires us to learn once again that what God creates and graces and blesses may be beset and broken but not destroyed. Life finds its way — ancient memory takes hold, follows the path of the ash, inscribes itself anew, beauty blazing from the wreck and ruin. “We are treated…as dying,” Paul writes, “and see — we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.”
Our Lenten journey follows the stories of Luke this year as we move from Galilean epiphanies through Jericho-road lessons in discipleship to Jerusalem and the Passion and Resurrection. Like the lost older son, we’ll hear how Christ calls his disciples and the Church to the Way that is love, and to follow Christ on this Way may require taking up some new disciplines and jettisoning some baggage. We’ll hear how disciples must take up commitment and leave behind excuses and indecision, stand firm through difficult struggles and not acquiesce to easier and lesser goals, respond to grace rather than rest upon laurels, work in the trust of God’s kin–dom to manifest and no longer wait on divine action and evidence, perceive and celebrate the goodness of what is to come while letting go of what holds us back, and speak out about God’s Great Reversal before silence suffocates the suffering. Mighty stories, powerful lessons, and earnest invitations from our Lord to join the party.
On the First Sunday in Lent, March 10, “Point of No Return,” we consider what Luke 9:51 – 62 teaches us about Jesus’ call to discipleship and the excuses we find not to answer it. If we are truly to follow him, we must turn our heads to Jerusalem and give up those things which hold us back as
disciples and as the Church.
On the Second Sunday in Lent, March 17, “I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do),” Luke 13:31 – 35 provides a road map to stand firm for God’s transformative love breaking into the world through our hearts and minds, hands and feet and lips.
On the Third Sunday in Lent, March 24, “Looking for Figs in All the Wrong Places” examines the story of Jesus telling a lawyer the parable of a “Good” Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) and how we today try to find a way to redefine “neighbor” in more palatable terms.
On Lætáre Sunday (the Fourth Sunday in Lent), March 31, “I Just Dined in Your Arms Tonight” revisits the story of the Feeding of the Multitudes (Luke 9:10 – 17) and asks “If not us, who? If not now, when?” The urgent question is: how will we answer?
On the Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 7 “A Nard Habit to Break” reconsiders the story of Jesus’ visit to Bethany (John 12:1 – 11), and asks “Can we break our bad habits and break that bottle of nard so we can finally pour it out on something worthy? Can we at last focus upon the fact that Lazarus has been raised rather than ‘the church is dying?’”
On Palm Sunday (the Sixth Sunday in Lent and the beginning of Holy Week), April 14, “The Sound of Silence” (Luke 19:28 – 30) considers the cost of inaction and the consequences of silence.