Story-formed Lent

In a recent post, I made the following comment:

In my view, what makes the Christian life an intelligible possibility that can make sense of challenges we face, requires us to constantly be reminded of the story of God’s faithfulness – shown in the stories of Israel, exemplified in the entire ministry of Jesus, and continued through the presence of the Spirit in our lives and communities.

In my observation of Lent I have decided to practice the idea of story-formed living by reading through the gospel of Luke. I’m calling this “story-formed Lent.”

Lent is supposed to be a time of preparation for the Easter celebration, recognizing that the Christian life does not just involve participation in the victory of Christ, but involves suffering with Christ as well. To be completely honest, sharing in the suffering of Christ is not something I am particularly comfortable with or even sure I am required to do (didn’t his death on the cross negate suffering?). Yet I am challenged by the reality that God’s kingdom, while initiated by Christ, has not fully come, hence to continual suffering our world experiences. So while I place my hope in the ultimate victory of Christ, our broken world necessarily calls me to acknowledge the suffering I participate in.

And this leads to Lent – a time to actively reflect on the suffering of Christ and tangibly participate in that suffering. This is where story-formed Lent can be a helpful approach to entering into this participation. The question I am asking myself as I read through Luke is “How does this story form my understanding of Lent?” So far, the overwhelming theme in my brief bit of reading has been that participation in Christ’s suffering is no small thing, requiring allegiance of my whole being to Christ’s lordship. Reading the early parts of Jesus’ ministry, there is no sense of flippant or half-hearted participation. In a culture that assumes religion is primarily about self-fulfillment, a concept we are all implicated in adopting, this is a sobering picture of the Christian faith.

The purpose of Lent, then, is a chance to consider deeply the implications of our identity of Christians, an identity that not only reaps the benefits of Christ’s salvation, but participates in his suffering. In light of this, I believe a story-formed approach to Lent allows us the space to understand what participation in the life of Jesus means. A time of preparation can seem redundant when we know the ending, but considering the story as I am seeing it in Luke, Christianity without preparation is reduced to a cultural and religious affiliation, not a life transforming participation.

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