Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16   Romans 4:13-25   Mark 8:31-38

Now that we’ve officially launched Lent 2021 and the big joke is that people think they never left Lent 2020, it’s the perfect opportunity to remember that somebody’s always in Lent, pandemic or no pandemic.

Yes, every day of every year people face their mortality, great losses, fears, human frailties, multiple failures, systemic and episodic injustice, unachieved goals, new limits, faltering faith, stripped down realities of life with and without God, etc., etc., etc.

Somebody’s always in Lent.

Perched precariously on the cusp of a century with his own harsh realities, truths, and statistics already haunting his life, Abram is handed an antidote no one could be expected to hang their hat on. God offers an outrageous promise and an impossible plan. The presentation climaxes in an underwhelming promo of him and Sarai being given slightly different names. Right. Well that makes the rest of it all believable, doesn’t it? And why now, God? Why not roll this one out when we both had more energy and a sex life that regularly made us believe we could be more than we were!

Abraham and Sarah would get there, but not without doubting, giving up, taking control in the worst way to force hope, and then having to clean up that mess as if God couldn’t see it—as if God wouldn’t go looking for it in the wilderness to offer its victims their own promise.

But still we can ask, who among us lives without a promise? Who among us lives a life of a foreshortened future? Who among us lives not knowing where they fit in the human story? Who among us stands in a life that is less than their simple dreams of love and family? Who among us has never heard God’s promise to them, never mind had the luxury to not have to trust it?

Because somebody’s always in Lent.

The gospel reading in Mark reminds us of Jesus in his Lenty life and how his loved and loving follower Peter wanted more than Lent for him and tried to help Jesus understand things differently. Oh, how folks want a positive word that will have cost no one anything! This sharp edge of the gospel isn’t really necessary, is it, Jesus? Really??? Jesus answers from inside this hard enduring truth that no one wants to hear any more today than they did then.

Then, after Jesus dies, rises and ascends, his Roman followers still find themselves in Lent. Paul talks up to them perched precariously on the cusp of the law. He gives them a good push into the same promise we heard first with the Genesis reading. And suddenly we are talking about faith, the faith that was passed onto us, faith in a promise that depends on a grace that fulfills the law and absorbs its best hopes and justice into itself to be poured out upon all flesh, all creation.

Because somebody’s always in Lent.

What are the promises the Gospel first gave you? Let them take shape with words and voice. See in their renewed greatness how culture and tradition may have whittled them down so they don’t cost us very much at all. How did they become a bargain brand?

In this season we un-whittle them, again. Those promises must never be cheap. They are worth everything and still completely free. What are the promises from which your faith was born?

Because somebody’s always in Lent.

Diane Strickland is approaching her 33rd year as an ordained minister now serving in The United Church of Canada as retired clergy. She is a Certified Community and Workplace Traumatologist, Compassion Fatigue Specialist-Therapist, and Critical Incident Responder in private practice.

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2 thoughts on “RCL Lent 2, February 28, 2021

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