Tag Archives: good friday

The Inconvenience of Lent

[This post was originally published on Relief Journal's blog, and I'm happy to say our church now incorporates communion into the service]

In our American culture of drive-through coffee, instant Twitter feeds, and video on demand, we prize immediacy. We like to check our email on our touchscreen phone as soon as it hits our inbox, grab lunch to-go, and download live-streaming news. We are a nation of busy professionals, parents, and students living under the banner of “carpe diem,” driven by the idea that there’s no time like the present.

This “now” syndrome certainly has advantages, motivating us to work hard and invest fully in whatever we’re doing, but what happens when we apply our instant-culture values to spirituality?

I once had a bizarre experience with communion that made me consider this question. After months of exhausting church-searching, my husband and I finally found a church where we wanted to stay. It’s a contemporary kind of church, the kind that has a graphic designer on staff and a coffee bar out in the hall, and we came because we like the teaching and the small groups. But you have to understand, the church we went to before we moved was a liturgical church, the kind with Kierkegaard quotes in every other sermon and weekly communion. So we knew we’d have to make some adjustments at our new church.

But this is what I did not expect: communion that is served before the service, an addendum tacked onto and separate from the worship service. So we set our alarms a little earlier, entered the sanctuary, and found only a fraction of the congregation had shown up. The pastor said a prayer for this handful of early-risers, and at his invitation we filed up front and received the elements, and then it was over. The whole ordeal took literally five minutes. There was no time of confession before receiving the sacrament. There was no benediction afterwards, charging us to go forth bearing Christ into the world. There was no community, only a yawning faithful few. There was no ritual, no careful unfolding of holiness.

It was like grabbing Christ’s blood of the covenant, His outpouring for the world, in a Styrofoam to-go cup. It was a sacrament dictated by convenience, quickly squeezed in between other items on the agenda, and left out of the greater context of cosmic redemption.

The problem with an instant culture, and an instant church, is that a preoccupation with the present diminishes our ability to see seasons, to see story, to observe the unfolding of time. This is the pivotal idea of the sacrament of communion: Christ asks us to remember Him by taking the bread and wine (Luke 22:19), and to anticipate the future when we will eat and drink with Him face to face (Matt. 26:29).

As we now enter the season of Lent, we enter a time of waiting. There is no immediacy or convenience here. But there is a story of cosmic proportions unfolding, as we take the forty days of Lent to remember, to walk through the events of the life of Christ: the temptation in the desert, the agony of Good Friday, the silence and sorrow of Holy Saturday, and the joyful victory of Sunday morning.

It is often difficult for us to lay down our gadgets and agendas to just sit for a while, quiet our souls, and dwell with God. And yet, He laid down everything for us, making Himself “nothing” and emptying Himself to the point of death (Phil. 2:7-98).

In his beautiful poem“Seven Stanzas at Easter,” John Updike writes of the agony of the cross, “Let us not seek to make it less monstrous, for our own convenience…” As we cross the threshold of Ash Wednesday, let us reflect sincerely and sorrowfully on Christ’s suffering for us, so that on Easter morning, our hearts will grasp the incredible joy in His resurrection.

How do you find preparing yourself for Easter through Lent an inconvenience? How do you find it a blessing?

Earth Day, Good Friday, and Wholeness

This month, we are approaching two national holidays. They happen to fall on the same day. But depending on your political, religious, liberal, conservative, radical, conventional standing, you may lean more towards one than the other, or even feel like you have to choose between the two.

Earth Day was instituted in 1970 by Senator Gaylord Nelson, it was a political initiative, intended to enforce national environmental responsibility, and this new holiday birthed the modern environmental movement. Good Friday is annually observed by Christians to remember Christ’s crucifixion and death so many years ago. To the church, Good Friday, together with Holy Saturday and Easter Sunday, is the culmination of history, fulfilling Scripture’s promises that a Savior would come into the world and redeem it.

This year April 22nd hosts both Earth Day and Good Friday, and to many people, these holidays may seem to be at odds with each other.  In my experience, Christians are more interested in discipleship than reducing their carbon footprint. Female ministers and abortion can be hot topics, but global warming? Not so much.  Likewise, the people who champion green living march under the banner of sustainability, health, and animal rights. Talk of soul-saving doesn’t really hold appeal, because in their mind, they’re already saving the planet.

It saddens me that anyone would think these two ideals have to be pitted against each other as if in a bull pen. Because in my perspective, both holidays have to do with wholeness. Whole earth, whole redemption, whole life.

Eden was once whole, a perfect earth, perfect creation, and perfect humanity. God called it, “very good.” But sin crept into this good garden and fragmented it, introducing thorns and dry soil, pain and pride—toxic to both our bodies and our souls.

Good Friday marks a turn in our decaying world.   A man who was God sacrificed His life for the world, and this set into action a redemption that would work both backwards and forwards, pulling this broken earth and its broken people into a new heaven and new earth. One day, the effects of sin will be reversed, and the new heaven and earth will reign in renewed wholeness. Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday set all of this into motion.

Scripture says that creation is in bondage just as are the children of God. “For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:22-23).

This April 22nd, let’s groan and wait together, the earth and God’s children, the created crying out to our Creator.

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