For me, I need Lent this year to be a season to refocus my gifts and my failures, my time and my life, back to my Christian faith and my baptismal calling. I need Lent to be a time of deepening my discipleship and reminding myself that everything I have, everything I am, is in Christ.
The ashes, I am struck this year, the ashes (which are a symbol of our brokenness, our mortality and frailness) cling to us in the form of a cross. Everything I have, everything I am, even my brokenness, my sin, my frailness, is in Christ.
Often we talk about giving things up for Lent, or adding things. “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” But when I reframe the question to “What does Lent need to be for me this year?” it doesn’t come down to things given up or things added. Rather than sacrificing money, time, or food, I need Lent to be about putting all my money, time, and food in relationship to my faith, in relation to Jesus. So I guess you could say I’m trying to give up everything for Lent this year. Give it all up to Jesus! That sounds pretty good, huh? Well, I’m doing it because I sounds good, but because that’s for me what I need Lent to be this year.
I’m really excited about the “What’s the Buzz?” theme we have this year and the project of buying honeybees. I’m excited about it because it fits so well with what I just said about what I need Lent to be.
First of all, wealth and food distribution in the world is terrible. 1% of the population of the world holds about 50% of the wealth. And the top 10% hold 85% of the wealth. That statistic pretty well holds true to whatever subdivision of the population you look at, also. Looking at just American wealth, it’s the same. What does all that mean? I means that we end up with 1 in 7 people worldwide suffering from hunger (or in Africa, 1 in 4) while a third of all the food that is produced gets thrown away. It means that we end of living in world with divide between those who have, and those who do not have (whether it’s food, money, or access to good healthcare, education and so on. And we are really good at shielding ourselves from others and learning the hard truths about the struggles so many of even our closest neighbors face. And as a disciple of Christ stuck in cultures and systems that continue to hide the plights of my neighbor from sight, and perpetuate a me-first mentality that allows me to reject or ignore the stories of my siblings who are hungry, who are daily made to feel less-than because of the color of their skin, the place of their birth (or their parents’ birth), or my siblings in Christ who’ve been told they are abominations because of who they love…As a disciple of Christ stuck in these cultures and systems that allow others to be exploited, marginalized, or just flat out ignored in order to maintain my comfort, my standard of living, my privilege and power—I’ve had enough. All of this is from our ashness, our brokenness; and it needs to be confronted and named: which is why we have Ash Wednesday.
But now, the honeybee project, that is a source of hope for me.
The honeybee project helps me to see my wealth and status in even these broken systems as potential blessing. The honeybee project reminds me that my excess (even $20) can mean the difference between a steady income or not for someone else. My little bit here in this project makes a difference in this world. With this Global Hunger Challenge 2019, I can be part of something bigger than myself—something I could not do myself—that will make a big impact not on just one person, or one family, but many--And also on the environment, the whole agricultural economy of a place, and ecological well being of the planet!
Even more, this project is a source of hope for me because it all started from listening to another’s story—something that is absolutely counter-cultural. Every project in this hunger challenger (whether honeybees, oxen, building wells, etc,) every project in every community starts with listening. There is someone in the church who has gone to each community that these projects help and listened. They’ve gone simply to form relationships. They’ve gone to learn about someone else, to be willing to share about themselves, and to make a genuine connection with another human being simply because they are living out the gospel and Way of Jesus. These projects came about, not because the church was looking for something to do, but because we had a relationship with someone, who had a need, and then we saw that if we worked together we could help them out—cuz that’s what friends do!
This project is hope for me because it comes from the kind of listening and being neighbors, being siblings in Christ, that is so much needed in the broken world I live in—in the broken, ashy life I live. It is precisely how Jesus came to this world—as one of us, to be with us. And then, getting to know us, became the friend who would go to the cross for us—who would join us in mortal life, in mortal death, and then give us what only he has: everlasting life. New life. Eternal life.
Jesus took our ashes, our mortality, and made them his—so that his divinity he could make ours. The ashes are in the form of a cross, so that even as Christ was raised from the dead, we too might have new and eternal life. “For if we have been united with him [by baptism] in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.”
What does Lent need to be for you this year?
I need my Lent this year to be a season to refocus my gifts, my time, my life, back to my Christian faith and my baptismal calling. I need to be reminded that the ashes take the form of the cross, because all my failings, all my success, all my life, is in Jesus Christ. He has it all, and loves me and uses me, just how I am.
What does Lent need to be for you this year?