While the powers and principalities are always at work to oppress and hurt, there are moments when they seem to gather strength. It is the church’s task to discern such times, and to faithfully resist and model a better way.
- immigrants are being scapegoated and deported
- the U.S. government is a force in the acceleration of climate change
- there is a large transfer of wealth taking place from the middle class and poor to the wealthy under the new tax code
- healthcare for all is being undermined
- there is a great military buildup with a corresponding lack of commitment to diplomacy
- fear is a growing force in our national political life
- there is a coarsening of dialogue and an active undermining of truth
Those of us concerned about such developments are weary. Each day brings news of new evil. Protest can sometimes seem ineffectual and cement each side in its posture. The current grim reality show seems to conscript each of us.
The church, however, has its own yearly drama in which we participate in a larger and better story. As we enter Lent— a time for reflection, repentance, and prayer—how might the church find its prophetic voice?
- Protest can sometimes seem like a public exercise in self-righteousness. Movements for justice gain credibility when they include self-sacrifice. Given the tradition of Lenten self-denial, how might we undergo the sacrifice necessary to call attention to the current darkness?
- What might the role of prayer be in this time? Joe Gatlin has come up with some prayers for both Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. What prayer disciplines should we undertake?
- Lent has traditionally included fasting. Beyond fasting from food, what other creative fasts we might want to undergo? Fasts from social media, from meat, from spending, from the news?
- Are there service projects we might want to do in order to point to a better way?
- Might there be any Old Testament style prophetic actions to take? Public nudity? Marrying prostitutes? Wailing, moaning, sackcloth and ashes? Are there playful things we could do? What kind of imagination do we have for the prophetic?
- Are there ways to be clear (to ourselves and others) that we aren’t being partisan? While the Trump administration seems to embody much of the current selfishness, elements of it existed under Obama as well. How can we lament injustice and unrighteousness wherever it is found?
- Do we need to make space and time to grieve? The daily slap to the face/punch to the gut that is the news has many of us numb, sad, and anxious. Are there ways to take our grief to God so that it can be redeemed?
- Might there be secret personal disciplines we want to take on? (But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. –Matt 6:17-18) And communal, public disciplines? (. . . let your [ya’lls] light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. –Matt 5:16b).
The above questions may seem overwhelming. Hopefully, they are just provocations and prompts to help church communities think well about how to embrace Lent in our current situation. Even if communities just choose one thing, and do it with commitment, that matters. Is there one thing that you want to do?