I mentioned in my Ash Wednesday post Lent means a turning for me. Like Jesus, early in Luke’s Gospel, turns toward Jerusalem, I turn my face towards Easter. I am going to use the second half of Luke’s Gospel as a text for Lenten reflections. Jesus’ journey toward Jerusalem has something to say to us on the way.
The imposition of ashes on Wednesdays compels me into Lent. Though the service is somber in tone, it sparks a hunger to give up this and take on that. It is as if I am one of the Desert Monastics welcoming a life of full asceticism. I receive the invitation into a Holy lent with the legs of sprinter; unfortunately I also receive it with the stamina of a sprinter. I guess I always have.
If you know me, you know I am fast. It is something I am proud of. Although I am into my 30’s, I am still up for a race unless the opponent is Denard Robinson or Usian Bolt. The truth is I live much of my life as a sprinter. I start things fast; I dive in with gusto, yet have little stamina. I get restless, bored or weary and I give up.
I think it is interesting that shortly after Jesus turns his face towards Jerusalem Luke includes a text about following.
As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus said, “Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62).”
This text reads me. It is as if I am one of those guys and those are my words. I say yes to following, yet I am not quite ready to make the full turn to Jerusalem. What is most uncomfortable is Luke leaves us wondering. Did the one guy let the dead bury their own dead? Did the other leave without a goodbye? I am left wondering about my own story as well. Wondering if I will ever make the full turn. Wondering if tomorrow will be the day I live into my confession.
Lauren Winner writes in Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis, “It turns out the Christian Story is a good story in which to learn to fail.” I think she is right. Ours is a story about a God who welcomes us, even those who are prone to wander as the old advent song declares.