Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey, poking fun at earthly powers like Herod and Caesar who ride on great, white steeds in glorious parades to celebrate themselves and assert their power. The broader way of Lent liberates us to fearlessly laugh and find joy in the freedom our King Jesus brings. In the light of God’s love we are invited to not take ourselves and our faults so seriously, but rather experience grace by embracing laughter, joy, and our shared humanity.
Mary pours a ridiculously expensive perfume on Jesus as an act of love, devotion, and preparation for his imminent death. Judas, who John does not give any grace, grumbles about how she should have sold it and given the proceeds away to the poor (with the possibility that Judas wanted to take a cut). Jesus speaks the cringe-worthy words which have justified so many careless, callous Christians to ignore the God-given social contract of care for the poor. Jesus, who reads the Isaiah scroll declaring himself to be a champion for the marginalized, honors Mary’s gift and shames Judas, because there will always be more work to do, more care to give, more needs to meet, and more justice to seek. Life is not just about doing or accomplishing or fixing, but also about resting in the lavish love and peace of God. Sabbath means we work six days and then we rest, and Judas tried to embarrass Mary by taking the seventh day to celebrate that Jesus was still with them, even if only for a little while longer. The broader way of Lent is not just about suffering and self-denials but also taking the opportunity to soak in Christ’s love and presence in extravagant ways.
Art by Julia Stankova of Bulgaria
Then Jesus said, ‘There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me the share of the property that will belong to me.” So he divided his property between them. A few days later the younger son gathered all he had and travelled to a distant country, and there he squandered his property in dissolute living. When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed the pigs. He would gladly have filled himself with the pods that the pigs were eating; and no one gave him anything. But when he came to himself he said, “How many of my father’s hired hands have bread enough and to spare, but here I am dying of hunger! I will get up and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; treat me like one of your hired hands.’ ” So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him. Then the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his slaves, “Quickly, bring out a robe—the best one—and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. And get the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!” And they began to celebrate. ‘Now his elder son was in the field; and when he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. He called one of the slaves and asked what was going on. He replied, “Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has got him back safe and sound.” Then he became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and began to plead with him. But he answered his father, “Listen! For all these years I have been working like a slave for you, and I have never disobeyed your command; yet you have never given me even a young goat so that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fatted calf for him!” Then the father said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.” ’
Keywords: Lent, Jesus, welcome, home, love, grace, family, forgiveness, belonging
Jesus tells them a parable about a tree given new fresh manure on it’s roots, and that stuff, as gross, tragic, and terrible, as it is, will make or break that tree. And, if fruit is not bearing, sometimes we have to let fields lay fallow with enough time and distance before we can go back and plant again. Grow is not rapid or forced; it is gradual and incremental. The broader way of Lent reminds us how in our life journey it’s the manure of life that makes you grow.
Leaving the mountaintop experience of the Transfiguration, Jesus is faced with reality down in the valley. His disciples, who he commissioned at the beginning of Luke 9, cannot heal a lonely boy suffering from a spirit of sabotage and self-harm–the only son of a father who brings his boy to Jesus. Jesus comes to set humans free from the destructive cycles of self-destruction and oppression. The broader way we travel this Lent invites us to not be shackled by our past pain but discover hope and healing in God’s light.
Keywords: Lent, Jesus, healing, loneliness, unclean spirits, miracles, family systems theory, power, courage, trust, love, advocacy
Jesus is lured into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tempted by the satan, the prosecutorial powers and principalities of darkness, who tempts Jesus in three ways: to abuse his power for his own self-satisfaction (stones into bread); to abuse his power for his own self-promotion and popularity (dazzle the crowds by diving off the Temple); and to abused his own power to bring his Kingdom with immediacy and force (to kneel to the Powers and rule the nations). The earthly Jesus remains faithful to his heavenly Father by trusting the promises of God through scripture and the Spirit. As we travel the broader way in Lent, we learn that even in times of trial God is worthy of our trust.