Across the Pastor’s Desk: The challenge to be fully alive

Published 8:44 pm Thursday, February 22, 2018

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Josh Enderson

For churches that follow the liturgical calendar, we entered into the Lenten season on Ash Wednesday. Lent is a time when many people will give something up. It is often something like chocolate, coffee or sweets. When I hear people talk about their Lenten practices, it sometimes sounds as if they are giving things up just to say that they did it. But that’s not the real reason for this practice.  We give up these things in order to see what truly matters in life.

Joshua Enderson

Sister Joan Chittister writes this in her book The Liturgical Year: “Lent, as we learn on Ash Wednesday, is not about abnegation, about denying ourselves for the sake of denying ourselves. It is about much more than that … It is about our rising to the full stature of human reflection and, as a result, accepting the challenge to become fully alive, fully human rather than simply, grossly, abysmally, self-centeredly human.”

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We all get preoccupied with the things of everyday life: Getting a job, paying the bills, managing households and schedules, health and wellness, etc.  These things, for very good reasons, become the focus of our thinking and our activities.  Ash Wednesday reminds us that, in the end, all of these things don’t really identify us. We hear that familiar and haunting refrain: “Dust you are, and to dust you will return.” These things are dust. 

Ash Wednesday and Lent force us to realize that, for much of the year, we get very self-centered, very focused and concerned on our own lives. Lent calls us to look outside of ourselves and to recognize that, to be fully alive, we must have community and recognize what truly matters in life.

On this Lenten journey, we discover what it means to be human, to witness and lament the brokenness of the world that we live in, and in the lives that we live.  But, we also hear God’s resounding answer to that brokenness. In the midst of the brokenness of Good Friday, where we tried to kill the one who brought the good news to us, where sin and death crucified God’s Son, God’s grace brought new life and hope to this world. As we begin this somewhat dark journey, we must always keep our eyes on the horizon, where God’s Easter light is starting to rise. We must not forget that Lent ends in Holy Week and Easter. At the end of the Lenten journey, there is the rising sun of that third day on Easter morning. 

As I said, some remove things during Lent in order to reflect on their lives and relationship with God. But, for some, adding things can actually get this point across better.  Some will try to be kinder or more generous, if only for a moment, forcing them to look at the world that is outside of their own personal issues.  In the process, they bring that Easter light and hope into the lives of those that they interact with.  What things might you add or subtract from your life this Lenten season that might bring you closer to God and your neighbor?

Josh Enderson is pastor of Hayward Lutheran Church.