by WILSON PRUITTShe tells them of Life and Death, and of all that they would
She is tender where they would be hard, and hard where they
like to be soft.
She tells them of Evil and Sin, and other unpleasant facts.
They constantly try to escape
From the darkness outside and within
By dreaming of systems so perfect that no one will need to be
- T.S. Eliot, Choruses from The Rock
A month passes, and we are still in Lent. Christians are an odd sort for their seasons and especially for Lent. Christmas slips neatly into Thanksgiving and July 4 and Valentine’s Day as a day of collective and assumed consumption. The financial year is based around the Christmas giving period without which many industries and many thousands of companies would be in the red. The market relies on Christmas, but it does not rely on Lent.
It has been a month, and Lent is still here and will be here for a few weeks more, yet what keeps it here? Can we walk away from Lent? Can I say no to this bitter season with death at its end?
I have a friend who told me that the most important thing he learned about supervising people was how to say no. I asked him how he did it. This was his response: “No.”
That freedom is always ours with Lent. We can always say no and most of us spend most of this time saying no to a season that barely affects how we live our lives. Sure, we may not say a certain ‘A’ word and we may sing some somber songs in church, we may keep a discipline a or two, but when I am jogging after work or watching basketball or contemplating a new swimsuit, what season am I living in?
How do we still live in Lent when it’s so easy to say no to the season in just a month? How do we accept the not-so-chipper news about a God who became human to be killed?
We must remember that Lent is not about us and our righteous discipline. It is not about sad songs or not saying words or telling people what to do and how to behave. It is about Jesus. It is about Jesus turning his face toward Jerusalem. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, city that slayed the Prophets. Why does he go there? Why doesn’t he turn around? Why don’t his disciples realize what he is doing? Why don’t they stop him? The disciples didn’t understand which season they were in, just as we think less of facing Jerusalem and more of ascending to heaven.
The last miles are tricky. Holy Week is hard, but it is filled with days of note: Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday. In these last days of Lent, there are no days of note. Lent is like a marathon in that it is not the last miles but the ones before those that are hardest. The ones where we barely remember why we are in this season. The ones where saying no to Lent is easiest because it has been long enough. These miles that we run now are not glorified. Palm Sunday is a celebration. The week before is not. It is still Lent. We can still say no. It is easy. You just say it. No.
Or, as a church, we can with each other learn how to say yes.