Blog >
A LENT LIKE NO OTHER
March 18, 2020, 12:00 PM

When we celebrated Ash Wednesday just three weeks ago, no one could have expected that the Lenten season would take such a dramatic shift in such a short time. Sessions, leaders, and pastors are in discussion all over our country concerning whether to cancel in-person gatherings. Even Holy Week and the Feast of the Resurrection are on the table as to whether we should gather or not. We have gone from watching COVID-19 as something that was happening “over there” to something that is occurring here in our communities and neighborhoods. Social distancing has become a common word in our vernacular when three weeks ago most would have looked at you oddly had you used the phrase in conversation. In the course of three weeks we went from a nation of plenty to empty shelves and shortages of toilet paper. As I reflect upon these last three weeks, I have to relate the shell shock many of us face to the emotional whiplash of Holy Week for Jesus’ disciples. Have we ever given pause to think what went through their minds as they witnessed the events of those seven days? From entering Jerusalem to shouts of “Hosanna” to a secretive Passover dinner to a middle of the night arrest; culminating in a sham trial and the brutal execution of the man that they had placed their hope in as the Messiah of Israel. If we thought the changes to our society occurred suddenly…we have nothing on those followers of Jesus. Such change, all within a week. It’s really no wonder that the disciples went into hiding. Change of that magnitude, occurring that rapidly, naturally gives rise to anxiety and fear. We see that in our communities at this very moment. The panic…the hording…the fear that the world as we have known it is gone forever.

 

Our world has changed. We can no longer ignore that simple truth. The changes have happened rapidly and are mountainous. Just like those disciples during Holy Week, we may be anxious and want to go into hiding. However, we must remember how Holy Week ended. The changes brought resurrection. Life came from death…darkness was swallowed up by light…victory was proclaimed in the face of certain defeat. Our hope comes from knowing that through change and through trials God can and does do God’s work.

 

One of the practices that First Presbyterian here in Dickson does is to participate in the “One Great Hour of Sharing” during the Resurrection season. This is an offering that we take up on the Feast of the Resurrection and send to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance. We spend the Lenten season talking about this offering. We hear a minute for mission each Sunday during Lent. We pass out collection boxes and calendars to engage families in an intergenerational way…all revolving around this offering. (Don’t worry…this blog is not a plug for that offering). I bring up this offering because of the theme that we introduced this year on Ash Wednesday. The theme comes from Isaiah 58:1-12. Verse 12 says, “Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called repairs of the breach, the restorers of streets to live in.” (NRSV) When I preached on this passage three weeks ago, I did not know that it would be as applicable to our world as it is right now. We didn’t know that the fast we were preparing to undertake three weeks ago would turn out quite like it has. Many of us were talking about what we were giving up for Lent (sugar, meat, social media, etc). None of us were expecting to be self-quarantining, sheltering-in-place, and cancelling in-person worship gatherings. In such a short time our world has changed and looks a lot different.

 

Isaiah calls the people of God “repairs of the breach.” A breach is a gap…specifically a gap in a wall or a defense that has been caused by an enemy. Our society has experienced a breach; not an attack in a literal sense but in a way that has disrupted the world as we know it. As the community of faith, we have been called to become repairers of the breach. We are to help the world regain its footing. We don’t act like the breach doesn’t exist but we work to help people make sense of this new existence. We are the “restorers of streets to live in.” We help people to live again after life has been redefined. We are active participants in helping a society find its purpose and meaning again after that which gave them security has been brought down (been breached). I think that it is a beautiful thing that this label is given to the people of God after a description of the type of fast that God desires. A fast, not of empty religious ritual…not marked by giving up sugar or soda or social media, but rather a fast that exists to help those around us. A fast that is marked by feeding the hungry, caring for the homeless, fighting injustice, and standing by the afflicted. How closely does that resemble what we are finding ourselves engaged in at the moment? Are we checking on those in isolation, fighting for the healthcare of the poor and vulnerable, ensuring economic stability for the poor and those affected by the closures and lack of work? We are repairers of the breach. We act to defend those whose way of life is now threatened.

 

The word Lent actually comes from the Old English form of Lencten, which meant Springtime. Coincidentally, the first day of spring occurs tomorrow. Springtime has always been a time which recognizes the newness of growth, the end of winter (a period of death and hibernation) and the beginning of new life. As repairers of the breach, we can (and must) be agents of this new life following world-shaking change. This season points us to that end. A fast directed at the care of others which ends with the restoration of life. It may be hard to see how this season of Lent can be, in a sense, a springtime, but it is true. Change brings with it possibilities, and possibilities carry with them hope. These conversations that we are having regarding social distancing, in person worship, and pastoral care are conversations which are helping us to redefine what it means to be the church in a technological, social media driven age. We are becoming creative in how we engage each other in fellowship. We are beginning to think outside the box regarding how we worship. We are beginning (maybe for the first time) to recognize that society has changed and, if we are going to be repairers and restorers, then we are called to adapt to this new way of life in order to bring stability and security to a people whose way of life has been disrupted.

 

This Lent will be one that will be remembered for years to come. My prayer is that it will be remembered as a time where the people of God stood up and embraced their calling…where we became repairers of the breach and restorers of streets to live in…where we stood up and our light out shone the darkness and healing sprang up.

 

“The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail. Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called repairers of the breach, the restorers of streets to live in.” Isaiah 58:11-12 (NRSV)

Post a Comment


Contents © 2020 First Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) • Church Website Builder by mychurchwebsite.netPrivacy Policy