by Zac Harmon-McLaughlin, Director, Community of Christ Seminary
The season of Lent is not a season of spiritual self-service alone. It is not a time to engage in solely pious acts to improve one’s own spiritual life. Sure, there is room for deep personal transformation but, the season of Lent is much bigger than that. Lent is an invitation to pay deep attention to God at work in our lives so that we might change the world.
Jesus’ journey into the wilderness in Luke 4 isn’t just for his own sake. When Jesus is in the wilderness he finds himself literally discovering a new way to see both himself and the world. It is upon Jesus’ return from the wilderness that he enters the synagogue in Nazareth and has the profound insight and prophetic sense of call to unroll the scroll of Isaiah and proclaim the good news. He begins to read, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Once finished reading from Isaiah, Jesus proclaims it as so.
Jesus’ experience in the wilderness gave new insight and meaning into his own prophetic calling that drove him to challenge the status quo. If you remember, after reading the words from Isaiah and challenging the norms of life and culture, the religious folk of his time get so upset with Jesus they try to throw him off a cliff. Maybe this is a good place to make an invitation to this Lenten time in our life, time, and place.
My deep hope for this Lent is that as we journey through the wilderness we aren’t doing so for small self-improvement, but rather we are being challenged, formed, pulled, and disrupted so that we return from the wilderness with courage to change the world. Lent is not just a theological and liturgical season. It is a reminder that our practice, rehearsal, remembering, and telling of these stories is meant to empower us to engage with and transform a broken and hurting world. When we take Lent seriously we are forever changed, and when we are forever changed we have the courage to return to the world and tell a new story. It is a story where the poor receive salvation first. It is a story where all of those imprisoned are freed and restored. It is a story where the blind see and where those who have been oppressed and marginalized to the edges of our society find belonging. Telling this story we can authentically proclaim the nearness of the kingdom of God. Our theological participation in Lent must lead us to churches, restaurants, businesses, and grocery stores proclaiming the good news that invites everyone into transformative belonging – to claim their seat at the table.