Let Lent change us
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Thursday, February 27th, Psalm 51; Jonah 3:1-10; and Romans 1:1-7. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Change is a Lenten goal. The hope is that we are a changed person/people at the end of Lent. Too often, though, change is a negative sounding word within religious groups. It seems to imply that we have not been faithful to the traditions we have received. The past is glorified as being the halcyon days of the faith.
The Jews of the Exodus period, for example, wanted to return to Egypt. Once settled in the Promised Land, the Exodus then became the paradigm of the people’s closeness to God. Ten of the twelve tribes broke away from the Davidic monarchy because they felt disenfranchised, but then that same monarchy became Israel’s golden era during the time in Exile. There’s a constant looking back that idealizes history at the expense of the present.
But Jesus didn’t worship the past. His was an immediate connection with God as “Abba” (Father). He did maintain the religious traditions of His Jewish faith, but he also reinterpreted them. There is that amazing sequence in the Sermon on the Mount that builds in intensity as Jesus says repeatedly, “But I say to you …” Jesus was not afraid to usher in change when and where needed.
We may say that’s because He is Jesus. He has that right as the Son of God. But Paul changed the Christian proclamation, and Paul never even met the historical Jesus. Paul was not one of the Twelve and yet his Christian proclamation superseded that of those first disciples.
And we, in turn, reinterpret Paul. Paul writes in today’s passage from Romans that Jesus “was declared to be Son of God with power according to the spirit of holiness by resurrection from the dead.” Was Jesus not the Son of God prior to the resurrection? Any of us who celebrate Christmas would say that He is.
Change is as natural in the faith as it is in anything else living. Even God changes. In the story of Jonah, the prophet preaches God’s judgment in Nineveh and surprisingly they repent, from the animals in the field to the king on the throne. God is impressed, and it is written in Sacred Scripture that “God changed his mind.”
I have to believe that God also changed when Jesus was born, lived, died and resurrected. I can’t see how this could not change the nature of God since Jesus brings all of these new and unique experiences into the Godhead.
If change is natural and spiritual change is necessary, then let Lent change us. Everyone of us can grow in Christ. Don’t fret the loss of the past. Embrace the possible of the present. Take Lent seriously enough that it challenges. What else would we expect as we prepare to approach a crucified Saviour?
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