A Year of Lent

A few days ago, we marked one year of all of this. Like many people – and many pastors – it feels like we never got the Easter release from Lent; we never found an empty tomb and never received the visit from the risen savior in the midst of the darkness and pain of the world.

We just experienced a year of Lent. No Easter, no Advent, no Christmas, no Epiphany, nothing but Lent. We absolutely went through the motions, singing the right hymns for the season and making sure the right paraments hung proudly for each liturgical movement, but the darkness of Lent never left us.

Or at least it never left me.

We did not just experience a pandemic. We saw 400 years of anti-Black racism come to a head – and just how much force the system will use to silence any sort of dissent. We saw anti-Asian racism used to distract from incompetent handling of a respiratory virus – and fanning anger and hatred to sow seeds of division to protect the ruling class. We saw a political system weaponize division and tear us apart by deifying an adversarial justice and political system.

And nothing got better. The world never got less dark.

We have some hope now. Well over 100 million Americans have receiving their first dose of the vaccine that will – hopefully – give us a path to being with each other without introducing risk of exposing each other to a deadly virus, but people still die every day and variants continue to prove their increased transmissibility and strength.

But still the virus of racism and White Supremacy ravage our nation. Just a couple days ago a man – taught to feel deep shame over his natural sexual desires and filled with racial hatred – killed multiple Asian women and had his actions absolved because he “had a bad day” by the very law enforcement officials we pay a lot of tax money to protect us.

All of us. Not just those who look right and/or have the correct amount of money.

The darkness of Lent never went away. At least not for me.

The holiday of Easter shines in the near distance. I find myself wondering if we will feel that relief of seeing the empty tomb this year or if Lent will continue to cover us.

Have we reached the Holy Saturday of our year long Lent? Have we finally reached the end of this liturgy of wailing and darkness? Will we experience the resurrection?

Will I see the empty tomb and have our savior enter the locked room?

It all makes me wonder: what differentiates between falling into despair and naming the reality of the darkness that surrounds us? Where do we delineate between hopelessness and the prophetic reality? Have I failed to see any hope or simply spoken the truth of God’s call in our lives and the state of what we have made God’s creation into?

I don’t know, but I have hope.

I have hope because Jesus died on the cross and so many more have sacrificed their comfort, their treasure, their livelihoods, and their lives to share the message of his sacrifice. I have hope because we can make those sacrifices, we can repent to bring about Earthly reconciliation, we can bring light into the world.

Easter did not end the story; Easter started the story. The cowards, the scoundrels, and the proud gave all of that up because they saw the risen Christ – and they gave themselves up to try to heal the world.

I have hope – reckless and idealistic hope – that our collective dark night of the soul will end, our year long Lent will get its Easter relief, and collective repentance will happen.

Darkness still covers our world, and I still long for light. My preaching and writing will speak to bringing light into the world, even if the comfortable and contented find its taste too bitter.

This is Holy Saturday; I don’t know what the empty tomb looks like, but I long for it.

Peace,
– Robby

Fr(act)ured

(Author’s Note: So I firmly believe in the mentality of the devotional series Jason and Tuhina put together, and I wish life and CPE hadn’t derailed my following it on my days off, but as I’m now putting this blog on my PIF, I had to decide if I’m going to keep it up or edit it or just remove it from the blog.

I’m still a little baby, but the whole point of the devotional series was to release all the pain and not hold back.  So, it stays up.  This is just a disclaimer that I drop in F-bomb in the first sentence, and five more in within the piece. – RB)

So I’m a little baby; I’m not actually going to use #FuckThisShit on Twitter because I’m a coward of sorts, but the devotional idea is so potently wonderful that I feel like I need to actually participate fully, which I guess means that I need to be creative.

If you have NO idea what I’m talking about, Jason Chesnut and Tuhina Verma Rasche put together an advent devotional series that encouraged us to just scream #FuckThisShit and actually be in the pain and darkness that we are feeling, both to acknowledge is and say yes, it is real, and also to look forward to Christ the light in the darkness.  Acknowledge and live in the darkness, look towards the light.  The #FuckThisShit devotional series is here and the PG version (same verses, different and PG words) #RendTheHeavens here.

Today’s Prompt: Genesis 9:15b – Fr(act)ured

It took me a second to understand the prompt today.  I read that verse like I have read it so many times before, that God has said he wouldn’t do that again.  We were safe, everything was going to be fine, the rainbow is a sign that God loves us.

I have never read that verse looking from before the flood.  Never have I considered why they got to that point, why God would even be at the point where the rainbow would be necessary.  Never have I thought about the relationship God had with the people of Earth before the flood while reading the verse about God’s promise after the flood.  Never has I thought about just how fractured that relationship needed to be.

As I sat here, I found myself thinking that it should be unfathomable to us that the world would be so broken and our relationship with God so hopeless that God’s only recourse was to destroy it all – going way beyond just “burning bridges” – and try to start over.  It should be completely unfathomable that in a post-Jesus world, that the level of brokenness that lead to the flood was even possible.

It should be unfathomable, but it isn’t.  We have:

  • police violently attacking peaceful protestors that are trying to be the best stewards of the world we live in, and people who claim Christianity and claim to follow God’s law who are driving the violence.
  • a President-elect who just said anyone who burns a flag should lose their citizenship, making the flag more important that the country is represents and the values of free speech that it upholds.
  • Christians who tell segments of the population that their lifestyle is somehow worse than serial-marriages and sexual assault and they are not welcome to live in Christian community unless they meet a standard that makes the community “comfortable”.
  • Christians who believe all Muslims are evil, that they all should be killed (or at least deported), and that any sign that Christianity isn’t given special treatment is seen as persecution.
  • segments of our society that believe being a specific gender makes you a perpetrator.
  • police brutality and anti-police brutality that accomplishes nothing but shed innocent blood.
  • people who call Michelle Obama an ape and un-ironically say they aren’t racist.
  • a city that had a “Stop-and-Frisk” policy that literally stopped and frisked more black men than black men live in the city.
  • half of our country who legitimately believe that the other half is racist, bigoted, and misogynistic.
  • a considerable portion of that half that is racist, bigoted, and misogynistic that has been given voice to spew evil and hatred, calling for open persecution of marginalized and abandoned communities, and has a real expectation that their wishes will be granted.
  • mass violence that grows.
  • great, great division that grows.

That’s what we have (and I could have typed for days).  That’s what we have, and yet somehow I want it to be unfathomable that our relationship with God is so fractured that God just threw his hands up, said “Fuck this shit,” and wiped it all away?

Look around you.  Hopefully you can see love and compassion, but I know that you also see pain, and not pain because life sucks but pain because others have caused it, and caused it because of hatred or, worse yet, greed.  Look at what has happened to your relationships over the past 6 weeks; how fractured have they become?

My response shouldn’t be, “How did it get so bad?”  My response should be, “How have we fractured that relationship – again – knowing what has been given and knowing what can be taken away?”

How the hell are we so fractured when we have Jesus, we have the instruction, we know what the right answer is?  How?

Fuck this shit.  We know the violent and painful end of this, and yet we fracture ourselves and our relationship and our worship of God, anyway.

God, save us.  Save us so burning it all down isn’t the only solution.  Save us, put us back together, help us to act in love, compassion, and unity.

I’m tired, I’m broken, I need Christ.  #FuckThisShit.

– Robby