So, is Lent about personal discipline and introspection? It is. But because we are followers of Jesus, it is not just about ourselves, it is about our lives together in community. We are disciples who are working on the discipline of being faithful. Discipline is a regimen that develops or improves a skill. For us who are followers of Jesus, the skill we need to improve — perhaps we’re still needing to develop — is of being generous to the extreme. Extravagant in our love for our savior who commands us to then lavish that love on each other.
How else can you properly thank someone for bringing you back to life?
This was the conclusion to the sermon I preached yesterday on the 5th Sunday in Lent. The story was about a dinner party. The next-to-the-last dinner party Jesus will attend before his death. It began as a celebration to thank Jesus for the miracle of bringing Lazarus back to life. His sister Martha was busy in the kitchen. The disciples were preparing to sit down for a delicious meal when Mary scandalized the gathering with her inappropriate behavior of lavishing love and attention –and precious oil on her savior’s feet.
Inappropriate to whom? Certainly not Jesus. He told them in no uncertain terms to back off and leave her be. She was the only one in the room who understood who he was. The only one who was preparing for him to die. The only one who saw the big picture. The one who teaches us by her actions that the time set aside to worship our savior is time well spent.
Sunday morning worship seen as indulgence? I suppose it is. One hour set aside to sing with abandon. To watch and listen as our children come to understand church as a safe place where all are welcome. To greet one another in peace. To learn and to pray. And when the end of the hour is approaching, to hear an invitation to a party. A feast.
As there was a feast to celebrate Lazarus being brought back to life, so there is also a
Because how else can we properly thank our Savior God for bringing us back to life.
This is a serious season in our faith. We will watch Jesus enter Jerusalem with palms waving and crowds cheering. Soon after we will be shocked by Judas’ betrayal and saddened by Peter’s denial. And even after 40 days of preparation, we will be unprepared for the shock of seeing Jesus on the cross. And still there will be a feast in the midst of it all, as Jesus gathers with his disciples for one final meal. A meal that begins with the indulgence of Jesus bending over his disciples’ feet, washing them clean. Taking the time to love extravagantly even in the face of death.
I pray as one who leads a community of faith for my own willingness to take the time to thank him for bringing me back to life. And I pray together with that community for us to reciprocate in that thank you by showering Christ’s love on each other. No matter the time it takes. No matter the cost.