Speaking of Lent

Reflecting on “things are not as they should be”

Earlier this week, Good Shepherd members gathered in person and online for a meditative reflection on our shared journey through Lent. Using the Lenten lectionary readings as our guide, we walked back through each Gospel lesson and reflected on the ways scripture had spoken in fresh ways this time through Lent.

Viewed through the lens of things not being “as they should be,” the words of each Gospel reading provided a picture of both the brokenness of our reality and the hope of resurrection. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, he drew from the deep well of God’s word to find grounding in the truth. When Jesus saw a wayward city that refused to be gathered into God’s love, we witnessed a model of lament so rarely seen in our time. Confronted with the parable of the barren fig tree, we take hope in the fact that God can bring life in unexpected places. The unforgettable story of the prodigal son presents us with a wayward brother who recognizes that eating slop is most certainly “not as it should be” – but neither is the grace-filled celebration that he receives upon returning. Similarly, in a positive spin on things not being as they should be, the pouring out of an entire jar expensive perfume is not how we typically believe such fineries should be used. But in Jesus, things are rarely as the world expects them to be.

It wasn’t supposed to end this way. At least, that’s what Jesus’ followers were feeling at the time. Death on a cross? Among common criminals? The same one who was welcomed with shouts of hosanna is now left to die on a cross? This was most certainly not as it should be. And yet out of death comes life – life to the full! Ruminating on the unexpected, incongruous, incomparable gift given in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ – the Apostle Paul commented: “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”.

The words of our theme that shaped the challenging lament of our Lenten journey apply just as powerfully on Easter Sunday and the weeks to come. The tomb is empty! The very Spirit of God is breathed into ordinary people! The church begins with small band of unexperienced, untrained leaders! This is not how it should be! Thanks be to God for the undeserved, unexpected and incomparable gift of Grace for ordinary, broken people like you and me!