That’s how a sign read outside a church near my brother’s home on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
Some Lent indeed. When we consider all of the deprivations of the recent weeks, it’s hard to imagine a harsher Lenten discipline. We’ve given up our plans for the last half of this semester and some are starting to become anxious about plans for the summer. We’ve given up meeting and eating with one another, we’ve given up on meeting for prayer and the classroom experience which we took for granted but now seem so precious. We’ve given up jobs and paychecks. As I write this, a campus alert has gone out confirming the first case of COVID-19 in a member of our campus community. Before that news, some shared with sorrow that a beloved member of the Psychology faculty and former President’s marshal, Dr. Stanley Hughes, had died in hospice. Sadly, none of his friends or colleagues were permitted to be with him in his final days among us. We know, given the projections, that some of the Valpo family will be personally impacted by the death of loved ones this pandemic.
The grieving for what is and what is to come is palpable. It can make one nostalgic for the polite deprivations of Lent’s past: chocolate, alcohol, salty snacks. I’d happily give up all three just to have the joyful experience of worship at the Chapel of the Resurrection among dear friends.
It’s hard to know what to do.
“You know, it used to be, we would have marked days like these with repentance, prayer and fasting.” observed a friend of mine. He’s a historian of the medieval period, so he thinks about such things. “Now,” he said, “we panic-buy toilet paper.”
“Yeah,” I agreed, “that hardly seems like an improvement.”
Many of us are resolved to keep our cool. We’re going to continue to conduct our classes and do our work the best we can. Those on the front line of this thing are going to do our duty for the sake of our neighbors the best that they can. Some of us are resolved to find the blessings that are hidden, even in times like these. It might not be prayer and fasting, it might be more like taking a break from the news, reaching out intentionally to check on others instead of assuming that they’re okay, marking out time with family for prayer and devotional reading.
It’s been some Lent.
In her book, Happy are Those: ancient wisdom for modern life, Heather Choate Davis reflects on the verse from the first Psalm, “They [the righteous] are like trees planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season.” She writes,
As we neared the end of the 20th century, we began to view seasons as something to make an end run around. If people wanted strawberries in December, well then, we’d go where they grow strawberries in December and spray ‘em and pack ‘em and ice ‘em and ship ‘em and – voila!… That we’ve traded in a natural lifecycle for a manufactured stream of tasteless fruit – shiny and deceptive and available on demand – is a consequence we have chosen to ignore.
[In] The Psalms, we hear of a different kind of life. A life of seasons. Seasons of joy and good fruit, to be sure. But also seasons of loss, of sadness, of failure; of uncertainty and rest; of illness and health; of seeking, pondering, raging, resurrecting; an ever-present cycle of death and new life meted out in due course across the landscape of our very human days.
We’ve become so conditioned to persistent productivity, she observes, that we’ve lost touch with the fact it is not only unsustainable, but that our creative productivity depends on times of rest and retreat, on times when we don’t produce much of anything at all. When the most we can muster is just being. It seems to me that we’re collectively in such a time.
We’ve had some Lent and it brought with it some suffering, some grieving, and some learning. This season is about to come to a close. Sunday will mark the start of Holy Week and regardless of whether we can be with one another physically, the Church will mark that week recalling the awful and awesome obedience of Christ. We’ll do so, not as a means of reliving his passion but as a deliberate reminder that in his obedience to the Father’s will, Jesus fully aligned himself with suffering humanity in a suffering creation. He did so and does so, for the sake of a love that knows no bounds, no limits, not even the limits of death.
It will be some Holy Week.
After that, regardless of our circumstances, we’ll have some Easter.
May the obedience of Christ and the hope his resurrection proclaims bring you some peace.
April 1, 2020
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future