The ancient church used the season of Lent as a time to prepare unchurched people for their new life in Christ. If you were writing the curriculum for the catechumen, what are some things you would include that you feel are essential to your life as a Christian?
It’s important to become (more) familiar with the Bible. That’s probably an obvious thing, but there are some non-obvious – and heartening! – aspects to this. Remember that there are a lot of people in the Bible – people considered heroic, in fact – who were at least as “human’ as they were “heroic.” Particularly during Lent, I feel that Christians – I, at least – can get all too hung-up on our personal inadequacies, failings, sins – and I’d maintain that the Bible gives us plenty of examples of people, in just as much human turmoil and angst as are we, whom God found fit to use in important ways, for important tasks.
Let me give a few examples.
King David was the important king for the Chosen People. There were other important kings, to be sure, but everything is couched in terms like “a king like [My servant/his father] David” and “a king of the house of David.” However good a king and commander David might have been, he was unfortunate in his sons. Only Solomon – David’s son by Bathsheba, whose “wooing” by David was a scandal – amounted to anything in the end: look at Amnon [2 Sam 13] and Absalom [2 Sam 15] to see how David may well have felt a failure as a father. Still, David was the man God chose as the pattern for kings.
God called Jonah to denounce Nineveh, capital of the superpower of Assyria. Jonah ran the other way, was humbled, did as God had asked, and then was angry and affronted that he had done the job so well that God relented from God’s planned punishment of Nineveh. There’s an interesting – and embarrassing range of emotions shown in the professional life of one the prophets (and a prophet is one who, literally, speaks for God; it’s what the Greek word means).
Paul started out as a persecutor of Christians (even before they were known as Christians), yet became the strongest proponent of Jesus in the New Testament (well, the best-known to us). Yet he was tormented, physically or mentally [2 Cor 12:7-10]; he was willing to quash argument by appeal to his own authority [1 Cor 11:16]; he could lose his patience, as with the Galatians [Gal 3:1]. Here’s a person with a shameful past (for a Christian), with some too human weaknesses, who builds churches wherever he goes.
The disciples were in Jesus’ immediate company for the bulk of his ministry. And yet: they asked for honor in Jesus’ kingdom [Mt 20:21; Mk 10:35-37]; they argued about which of them was greatest [Mk 9:33-34; Lk 22:24]; they thought the kingdom’s coming required force [Mt 26:51-53; Lk 22:49-51; Jn 18:10-11]; they didn’t recognize Jesus’ relationship with God [Jn 14:8-9]; and they ran away when Jesus was arrested [Mt 26:46; Mk14:50]. They made mistakes all the time!
God’s people were entrusted to such as these. Are we really more unworthy than they? Remember that you are imperfect, and try to understand those imperfections — but remember also that all the saints of God were – and are – equally imperfect. Don’t let your examination lead to you “beating yourself up,”
or to a sense of inadequacy, or unworthiness, or “contamination”: each of us is still one of God’s beloved children!
COLLECT OF THE DAY
Keep watch over you church, O Lord, with your unfailing love; and, since it is grounded in human weakness and cannot maintain itself without your aid, protect it from all danger, and keep it in the way of salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
LISTEN TO PODCAST "THE INSIGHT OF OUTSIDERS"
Click link below to listen to pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber discuss the insight of outsiders with podcast host Kate Bowler.
Click on the link below to purchase today's suggested reads: Life of the Beloved: Spiritual Living in a Secular World by Herni J.M. Nouwen and/ or Accidental Saints: Finding God in All the Wrong People by Nadia Bolz-Weber.