Pathways through Lent

The Opportunity of Lent

Psalm 103:1–4, 13–18 Isaiah 49:5–6
Romans 12:11–17 Luke 9:2–6

I used to have a rather confrontational attitude toward Lent. I viewed it as a
challenge, something to be conquered, a quest with a reward that was tangible
if sometimes petty. (If you give up beer and television, you get to spend the
day after Easter with a six-pack of Bud Light watching ESPN.) Many people
view Lent in this light, as a challenge of if I do X, I will get Y.
However, that mindset gets us into trouble when looking at today’s readings.
In Luke’s gospel, Jesus sends the disciples forth with their great commission
and says to “bring nothing for your journey,” and in Paul’s letter to the
Romans we are instructed to be zealous and “ardent in spirit.” The disciples
and early apostles here had to give up everything—all possessions, all
money, all stability—and have a good attitude. What would be their reward?
Definitely not the instant gratification we instinctively crave after making
sacrifices and overcoming challenges.
Instead the reward was—and for us remains—to serve God, to be
ambassadors for His will in the world, and to be raised up on the last day.
Accepting this charge means keeping our eyes fixed on the long game. Lent is
not a challenge. It is an opportunity we have to draw near to God, to give up
everything and follow as the disciples did, and to keep the faith even when the
reward seems distant.
–Michael Jones

(Archbishop Desmond Tutu, talks about “keeping our eyes fixed on the long game” in the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa in this interview by Krista Tippett for OnBeing on NPR)

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