We often treat Lent like New Year’s: a set of resolutions that will make us better people in the end, the people that we always wanted to be. We start a new diet or give up desserts or determine to pray more. These become chores that drag us down in our already busy schedules. By this, the Third Sunday of Lent, we’re probably considering scrapping the whole thing if we haven’t already. But Lent calls us to so much more than that.
Maybe that makes it sound worse. Going without chocolate for forty days might make us unhappy, but it’s at least doable. A simple action, a small change as a hat tip to God, to Jesus, to the One who suffered and died. Should we fast every day? Should we self-flagellate? Should we rend our garments in woe? I can’t recommend these things any more than I can recommend guilt over Lenten practices.
Instead, I recommend paying attention. Whether we succeed or fail in our practices, the important thing is to reflect on what those successes and failures might mean. How do they make us feel? Who do we become in keeping a practice or forgoing it? Where is God in all this?
This Sunday, we’re talking about one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible: Jesus’ encounter with the Samaritan woman in the fourth chapter of John. In this story, the Samaritan woman comes to the well to get water, probably a daily task. It is not notable, not worthy of any reflection at all. Instead, she meets Jesus, who promises to give her living water. He promises that she will never be thirsty again.
By the end of the conversation, a couple of things have happened. First, she knows that Jesus is the Anointed One of God. Second, she becomes the first evangelist, the first to bring the Good News. Jesus reveals himself for who he is and reveals to her who she truly is. In the process of this mutual self-revelation, she is transformed, not into the person she wanted to be, but into the person she never thought she could be. In the end, she forgets her task, she leaves her water jug behind, and begins a new life.
Lent is an opportunity. It is not about the task that we thought we had. It is not a daily chore to grind us down. It is not about success or failure. Lent is an opportunity to know ourselves and to know God. In the process we are transformed into the people we never thought we could be, but in fact always were.
Please join us this Sunday, 11am at Kidd Springs Rec Center, as we discuss the woman at the well. If you get a chance, please read John 4.5-42 ahead of time. This passage is such fertile ground for conversation. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Grace & Peace,