Lent and the Gospel of Matthew

Think

Here we are at the Second Sunday in Lent, and I don’t know if where you are is above freezing, but here in St. Louis we’ve finally gotten there. Thinking about Lent and this time of year brings me back to my formative years in rural Iowa. I think I began to learn what Lent was one year when I was walking up to Casey’s (the local gas station that to this day has some of the best pizza I’ve ever had in my life). It was one of those cold, gray March days in my hometown, and I remember feeling so cold as the wind blew through me as I trudged up that hill (it does that on the regular in Iowa). At the time I’m pretty sure I was just done with winter in Iowa, as one is in March. At the time I found that scene cold and ugly. I didn’t know that as those gray winds blew through my heart that they were embedding themselves in it, and that in time, rather than reminiscing on it as something ugly, it would resurface in my soul as the kind of stark, staring beauty that means Iowa to me.

That moment and those like it laid within me a framework to encounter Lent as a period of beauty in waiting: seeing in the starkness of apparent death the plain, hard, honest truth; and in that truth a place in which to let it be what it is without having to make it pretty. Sometimes it’s only in brutal, ugly honesty that we can see the next step or direction. Sometimes we have to be courageous enough to let death be death before the newness of resurrection or regeneration can begin to make the smallest of overtures into our souls.

This week we’re fully ensconced in the Gospel of Matthew, reading chapters 6-12. In Chapter 6, Hare considers,

What kind of commentary does this passage [Matthew 6: ?] offer on the preceding sayings concerning acquisitiveness, miserliness, and our idolatrous devotion to mammon? It helps us to view our money matters from a more distanced perspective. Despite the assurance of verse 33, we know that our money problems will not all be solved by an unquestioning confidence in God. Even Paul, whose confidence in God was unbounded, often went hungry and without shelter (II Cor. 11:27). What Paul learned from his deprivations was that God was greater than his needs (see Phil. 4:11, 13). By “seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness” we do not adopt an otherworldly view of economics and money, but we assess their usefulness in relation to other more serious matters, such as the ecological plight of the planet and the deprivations of the poor.

Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew, p. 72

What role does money play in your life?

This week we read Part 2,  “Managing Your Time,” Chapter 13, “Time Management Step #6: WATCH Yourself Get More Productive!” of The Lifelong Activist, in which Rettig shares with us her own journey toward better use of her time. Whatever process of tracking, budgeting, and reviewing your time you have gone through, what changes in your understanding and use of time have occurred?

C’mon over to People of the Books, our online book club in which we discuss this book and whatever else is on your mind or heart!

Pray

We continue on with our Lenten practice with Compton Heights Christian Church – reading and praying through Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life by Joyce Rupp. We finish Week 2: Welcoming Ourselves, and on Tuesday, begin Week 3: The River of Suffering. Week 2 addressed something I consistently work on: balancing love of neighbor with love of self.

Having self-compassion does not mean self-absorption. “This kind of compulsive concern with ‘I, me, and mine’ isn’t the same as loving ourselves,” writes Sharon Salzberg. “Loving ourselves points us to capacities of resilience, compassion, and understanding within that are simply part of being alive.” Self-compassion implies giving ourselves a worthy share of attentive care.

Joyce Rupp, Boundless Compassion: Creating a Way of Life, p. 52

How do you balance offering yourself compassion in relation to offering others compassion as well?

Act

Check out the Find Your FBCO Map to find your local faith-based community organizing affiliate and connect with the people who are working together to live out their dreams of a more just world! What’s going on in your living of the Gospel? Let us know in the comments, in our e-mail discussion group, or on social media.

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