I am the about least likely person to be hosting a 40-day online program for Lent. My family is brand-spankin-new to the Episcopal Church. I was raised Baptist, and then spent years in the Assemblies of God denomination. The only lint we talked about was in your dryer or belly button.
But I digress.
According to EpiscopalChurch.org, Early Christians observed a season of penitence and fasting in preparation for Easter (or the Paschal feast). The word "Lent" is actually from an Old English word that means "spring." The fasting portion of Lent has expanded from two days to six days to forty days, imitating Jesus and his fasting in the wilderness. And here we are today, in 2020, and I bet most folks reading this blog aren't Episcopalian or Catholic.
So why Lent?
Life is busy and seems to be more demanding every day. There's always one more thing to do. More work. Less hours. More expectation. Less support. More fear. Less love. So I'm viewing Lent as a time of intentional self-care...you might even call it soul care...to take a look at the things I am tolerating, and get rid what is no longer giving me life.
We Look for the Resurrection of the Dead
As we prepare Lent, one piece of the Nicene Creed stands out, "We look for the resurrection of the dead." My friend, Rev. Liz Edman explains why this often overlooked and sometimes misunderstood line matters so much:
In the early centuries of Christianity, deep thinkers came together to figure out the core beliefs of our tradition. The first of these early councils took place in the city of of Nicea in the year 325 CE. Out of this council came a statement of faith known at the NIcene Creed, which is said every week, still, in lots of churches -- including my own Episcopal Church. I've said it my whole life, and know it by heart. It begins, "We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth..." It ends like this: "We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come."
What I love about this is that it seems to suggest that, while we should be looking forward to life in the future, we should be looking for resurrection right now. What does this mean? To me, it means that we should be looking, right now, for moments when something has died and come back to life. It's easy to see in nature, of course, when those first daffodils come charging up out of the ground in the spring, or when trees that have looked barren suddenly are covered with little buds of leaves.
There's a reason that we celebrate Easter in the spring, when nature is bursting with reminders that resurrection is a real part of our world.
This is one of the ways that Christianity feels true to me, deep in my heart.
Resurrection isn't just something that Jesus experienced. We experience it in our own lives. And I think that we aren't just supposed to experience it. I think we are supposed to look for it. We are supposed to look for it, because resurrection is always a sign of life. It is the essence of hope.
You see resurrection in communities that are recovering from disaster, when people come together to support each other and rebuild. You see it when someone who has suffered a terrible loss finds the strength to carry on and is able, at last, to laugh through their tears. You see it when someone whose heart has been badly broken finds love again.
Looking for the resurrection of the dead has changed my life. You can't look for it and not feel some measure of hope. You can't look for it and not be grateful when you see it. You can't look for it and stay mired in resentment and anger, or clutch petty grievances as if they were pearls to be treasured. You just can't.
Once you start looking for resurrection -- really looking for it -- then you have to open your heart up to the wonder of our lives. You have to be grateful for what you have, even if it is small and modest. You have to acknowledge the power of love, and its astonishing, audacious ability to bring us to new life again, and again, and again.
*Liz Edman is an Episcopal priest and political strategist who has been igniting people's understanding of Christianity and queer life for more than 25 years. She has lived and worked on the front lines of some of the most salient contemporary issues where religion meets sexuality, serving as an inner city hospital chaplain to people with HIV/AIDS from 1989 to 1995, helping craft political and communications strategies for marriage equality efforts, and persevering for almost two decades to become an openly queer priest in the Episcopal Church.
Follow Liz's work at QueerVirtue.com.