Lent is a time of preparation; well at least it is to me. I found my most rewarding Lent season was in 2004, personally, travelling the Passion of the Christ season—seeing the film seven times—living through my own dark season, eating very sparsely and walking; sometimes over thirty kilometres a day. My succeeding Lent’s haven’t been nearly as integrated and passionate, I must confess. But there’s always 2010!
Depending on your approach you’ll start (or have started) Lent on either Clean Monday February 15 or Ash Wednesday February 17, taking us right through to Easter. The central idea being sacrifice, we’ve necessarily listened to God’s heart speaking to us in what we should leave out or do differently as we ‘walk to the cross.’
And this is it. To truly follow Christ we must be entirely ready to throw down at the foot of the cross anything voiding or compromising our participation in salvation. This is easier said than done at times—most times in fact—but it’s helped by acceptance. There are many things we must simply accept—with a childlike faith. Following Jesus while he was alive was not easy for his contemporaries, as it not easy now for us; without first, acceptance. We all know what we must accept—God has whispered these to us already.
Following is hence then about acclimatisation. The world looks starkly different from the gaze of the aforesaid acceptance—it takes us past ourselves and into a universe where God’s Agenda and our anointing collude: the genuine process of authentic discipleship. The humbling thing about this is acclimatisation, like acceptance (and certainly, activity), is a continual process, straining us ‘til our final day. Acclimatisation is costly; enter hence Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s theology of ‘costly grace.’
Activity lastly is the product of God’s tipping Spirit, as he tips into us all the godly inputs for salvation, renewal, growth and potential realisation. In short, activity is about fruit. It’s not simply about how we hold ourselves, but it’s the output of good works based solidly in our resplendently gorgeous and uniquely manifested faith.
Lent then can therefore be seen from a ‘walking to the cross’ viewpoint—the what. The how of Lent (and any other time of Christian discipleship) is about:
è Accepting our pasts, presents and futures—in sum, salvation from those things that would hold us from going on with God and his fullness for us.
è It is commitment to acclimatisation which requires from us a heart softness to God and his Word to us, biblically and mystically, so that we can respond well (or well enough) to the oft harshness of our realities. Is this spiritual resilience? Yes, I think it is.
è Both the aforementioned prepare us for headlong works of service, but only thus driven from pure faith and the revelation of God, screening out manoeuvres and masquerades from ‘you know who.’ We can therefore walk wisely and circumspectly with the Lord, not shattered in all different directions. We go as his Spirit leads and that alone. A big part of being led by the Spirit is taking hold of our spiritual rest in the midst of a profusion of spiritual and morally-pragmatic activity.
In these three we have summed up Jesus’ ministry and his walk to the cross; how he followed, obeying the Father, bringing divine finalising redemptive action to God’s work of creation.
He accepted his destiny; he grew acclimatised to realise his destiny in the cross, forgiving his enemies, and finally, he produced the greatest work ever known—the final act of all-encompassing salvation (conditional only upon acceptance) via redemption in and through the shedding of his own blood, to the glory of the Father!
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.