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Lent is a look at who we are
pastor corner

Pastor Devin Strong

Spirit of Peace Lutheran Church

Lutherans are part of a tradition that observes the season of Lent, the 40 days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. Maybe this seems old-fashioned to you, or maybe it feels like a season of self-flagellation that is magically relieved by Jesus’ resurrection. We hope Lent is neither.

Lent is a thorough-going look at who we are—without pretending, minimizing, or blaming others. It’s not about beating ourselves up; it’s about getting honest with God and ourselves. Anybody familiar with twelve-step groups will recognize this language as an essential part of getting sober and entering into a life of recovery. Of course, twelve-step groups got their start in the church and built on the Christian practice of confession. One wonders if a group of addicts getting honest at a meeting in the church basement don’t do confession better than we sometimes do in the sanctuary, but we can all learn from each other. No-holds-barred reflection is what it is all about.

As a pastor, I insist on not being partisan, but I can’t help being political because politics is about choices, and we all make choices every day. The choice that I see a lot of us making is to endlessly blame the other team. The problem with what is going wrong in our family, our church, our community, and our country never seems to be about a mistake or a poor decision that my team made, and it’s certainly not my fault! It’s always “their” fault, with their corrupt, stupid, power-grabbing ways. Since President Biden’s State of the Union Address, I have heard people on both sides of the aisle divide the world into “Normal vs. Crazy,” but crazy is always as far away from “us” as possible. Lent is about putting that petty blaming to death and getting to he heart of the problem—me, you. It is our sin, our selfishness, our closeminded attitudes, our greed, our laziness that causes the problems in our world. You and I are two examples of the broken humanity all around us.

Imagine what happens when people like us get real power?! But it’s not hopeless! This is also a central message of Lent. Recently, I read a book on leadership titled Canoeing the Mountains by Tod Bolsinger. It used the metaphor of the expedition of Lewis and Clark to describe the challenges of leading—I would say living—in the modern world. These explorers and their teammates trekked across the country on foot following the Mississippi River. Their task was to discover the waterway that everyone “knew” existed, a river that connected the civilized eastern part of the country across the unexplored west to the Pacific Ocean. Such a waterway would greatly expand economic opportunity in our growing country. It turns out, of course, that there is no such river because, at a certain point, Lewis and Clark run smack into the Rocky Mountains! They could have given up, turned around, and considered their mission a dismal failure, but they didn’t. They went another way, adjusted, and greatly added to our knowledge of the landscape. That is the gift of true exploration, tough honesty, and truth.

It is also the challenge of Lent. As we do the hard work of learning who and whose we are, we can turn back because it’s too painful, or we can press on, adjusting course as needed, and learn something in spite of ourselves as we follow Jesus to the cross.

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