I’m Giving Up Jesus for Lent!

Well, not really, but today, an article by my friend and former professor Barbara Pitkin on a website for thinking Christians — yes, they exist!

What I am giving up are the old certainties about how the Lenten story ends, what it means, how we experience it in our culture, our hearts, our religious communities. The question posed here: what would Lent be like — all the giving-up of this or that vice, all the adding in of this or that “healthy habit,” all the new “resolutions” (it has always felt to me like a new “new year,” what with the post-Mardi Gras headaches and the resolve to do better and start again), all the assurances that there is a resurrection, all the promises, all the waiting for renewal, all the expectations attached to the clean lines of the cross — seems crucial for this world moment. What if that death without dignity resulted in no ascension, no stone kicked aside, no Easter lily, no Sunday morning full of flowers and light. What if we fumbled along the path, unsure of everything and everyone, including what awaited us when the path came to an end? What if the path just kept going? What if all those mournful Lenten services just stayed mournful? Can grace exist in a world without hope? Maybe?

These days I believe that grace — however we choose to understand it, because I don’t believe Christians have a monopoly on the subtle and usually invisible machinations of grace — is a hard-earned state of mind. Grace isn’t magic; nobody can make it appear and it is not a wish that can be granted. If only. Grace takes work; it must be found and requires an ardent, soul-examining search. What I love about this article is that it asks us to consider what would happen if, at the beginning of the long journey, we didn’t know what we would find at the end or who we would be when we arrived.


2 responses to “I’m Giving Up Jesus for Lent!

  1. “… at the beginning of the long journey, we didn’t know what we would find at the end or who we would be when we arrived” – is there truly any other path to awareness, generosity, discipline, compassion and wisdom?

  2. What’s hope without doubt? “Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?” or, later, “Help me in my unbelief.” What does assurance do for believers if not deprive them of the opportunity for hope, making it unnecessary? (My neighbhor: “It’s not that we are better than other people, we’re just saved.”) What does the word “Lord” do in Christ’s mouth if not imply assurance?–someone is addressed, after all, and not just a notion, but a (presumed) hierarchical person. And why does the Greek-language-created text turn to Aramaic at this point? Is Aramaic okay for doubt, but not the Greek writer-believers’ language? Hell if I know. (And hell if I don’t.)

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