Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Entering the Desert: Lent 2018

Happy Valentine's Day/Ash Wednesday! The joke going around social media this year is that we are putting the "lent" in Valentine's Day today. I'm sure St. Valentine would have wanted it no other way.

Some years, Lent just kind of creeps up on us, especially when Easter is early, which it is this year. However, in a shocking turn of events, I actually find myself more ready for Lent than I have been in a long time. I credit the new communities that I have found myself a part of this year and specifically a group of ecumenical Christian feminist bloggers.

The lady-bloggers and I are in the getting-to-know-each-other stage of the relationship, and we are taking the time to share reflections in a group chat and some of us are even trying the Whole 30 together. Nothing says sisterhood like helping each other get through 30 days without cheese, wine, and carbs!

We also decided early on to do a Lenten devotional together. The one that we chose is a study of Exodus.

Exodus is one of the books of the Bible that I enjoy teaching in my Scripture course and my students enjoy learning about. It, of course, has huge significance in our Christian Paschal Mystery since Jesus was celebrating Passover when instituting the Eucharist at the Last Supper. I'm not sure why, then, I was surprised that our Lenten devotional is truly focusing just on the Exodus story and not much else. And even though we are just one day into it, I'm already totally on board with the journey that it is going to take us through.

Exodus starts where Genesis leaves off. Joseph of "technicolor dreamcoat" fame is the last major patriarch we read about in Genesis and he has risen to power in Egypt and the rest of Jacob's family has come to join him due to famine. At the beginning of Exodus, however, the new pharaoh in Egypt is not having any of Joseph's fame and has decided to oppress the Israelites, making them slaves.

It is not lost on me that we start Lent thinking about oppression. We think about the oppression of our sin. We think about the things that weigh us down and hold us back from uniting more fully with God. I feel like I can see where this devotional is taking my lady-bloggers and I, but we all know what happens when one "assumes." I'm going to try and keep an open mind.

In thinking about oppression, I can't help but think of all of the different groups of people still oppressed around the world. Victims of human trafficking. Victims of oppressive governments. Victims of racism and sexism. And today we watched on the news yet another school shooting take the lives of innocent school children. I believe that our own society is oppressed by our selfishness and enslavement to big businesses, political parties, and lobbies like the NRA. We are so trapped that we can't stop something so simple as not allowing gun violence to continue to take the lives of our citizens.

I am praying that as we continue through this Lenten journey, we will be liberated in some way from the oppression of this world and realize the freedom that we have in the truths of Christianity-two of those truths being Love and Forgiveness. And I believe in the power of prayer, but I know that action needs to be taken as well. I'm interested in looking closely at Moses as the model for this as the ladies and I move through the study.

God liberating His people through Moses is one of the quintessential salvation stories. Second only probably to that of  the ultimate story of salvation- His Son's saving us by His Cross and Resurrection. I am looking forward to diving into this mystery with Moses and with a community that I very much prayed for last year. 

Something else that I am doing for prayer this year, is something that I have modeled after a friend that I have kept in touch with from ministry during my time in Arlington. Each year, she asks for prayer requests from others on social media and commits to praying for them each day of Lent. I have taken a page from her book this year, and asked for intentions via social media. I have made a list and am keeping them close as we journey towards Easter. Know that readers of this blog count as well :)

I'm praying that this is a blessed Lent for all of us this year. One of true love and liberation.


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