Anticipating Lent

As we approach Lent, we prepare ourselves for a more somber season of the church year. I have been thinking about how, over the course of the year, we observe in our liturgy the range of life experiences we all go through. Lent seems especially appropriate this year. These are dark times, wilderness times. Divisions are so deep in this country that our life together is fracturing. In a recent op-ed, David Brooks from the New York Times pointed out that economic activity has slowed precipitously since the beginning of this century. There have been fewer new patents, fewer new business start-ups, fewer people moving for new job opportunities. The United States “is decelerating, detaching, losing hope, getting sadder. Economic slowdown, social disaffection and risk aversion reinforce one another.”

Brooks goes on to ask, “But where is the social movement that is thinking about the fundamentals of this century’s bad start and envisions an alternate path? Who has a compelling plan to boost economic growth?”

This Lent provides a wonderful opportunity for Christians to prayerfully consider how we can offer the alternative path that Brooks is calling for.

Our recent readings for both Sunday mornings and the Daily Office have come from Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us how to be citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We are not to be angry, or lustful, or judgmental, but we are to love our enemies. We are to be merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers. In all this, Jesus is telling us that our righteousness is dependent upon our relationships with others.

In chapter 6, Jesus also provides a few guidelines concerning money. Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven. You cannot serve God and wealth. Do not worry. These are personal guidelines we should follow, but how do we move the values of loving our neighbor, and even our enemy, into the economic structures which govern our lives? How can we bring hope to the world?

The church is called to be a reconciling presence in the world. Imagine what might happen if this Lent Christians:

  • devoted themselves to learning more about economic structures that divide people
  • applied their Christian imagination to their local economic problems
  • prayed to grow closer to God to see as God sees and to receive the power to act according to God’s vision

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Rev 22:1-2

Some interesting reading material from a variety of perspectives:

  • Kathryn Tanner, Economy of Grace
  • Daniel M. Bell, Jr., The Economy of Desire
  • Angus Sibley, Catholic Economics
  • Rosemary Radford Ruether, Christianity and Social Systems

 

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