Today’s readings: Isaiah 55:1-9 Psalm 63:1-8 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Luke 13:1-9
Rain cascaded down the ancient gothic buttresses of Westminster Abbey. Sunday morning meant the unusually long lines of tourists seeking to meander through the halls were noticeably absent. So few were present for service that I was ushered to sit in the hallowed quire. It was both mystical and mysterious to soak in. I could feel a thirst for the oft unknown presence of God beckoning me in a low time of my life to come….
“Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters.”
The organ filled the quiet with the opening chords as the choir filed in. Coming from my bland boxed suburban evangelical upbringing, this overwhelmed the senses.
The opening Psalm met me perfectly in my life. Do you ever get those perfect moments?
I couldn’t help but weep.
“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”
And as it so often does, it’s in the pit where you encounter God anew in visceral and magnificent ways. But only if you
“Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.”
The Abbey was novel. For a young evangelical everything was so real and necessary. But the empty pews dotted with grey hairs proved traditions age out over time. I suppose the same could be said about Lent. Growing up I rarely encountered church traditions. Evangelicalism has a knack for discarding wealth from days old.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.”
Lent is a deep practice that calls us back into the suffering from the desert to the passion road. Not merely for suffering sake, but a way to alert us to the continuing and unfolding reign of God. It’s formative discipleship that’s desperately needed in our age. That includes generations of Christians who, like the fig tree, look good from afar, but are cursed for not bearing fruit upon closer inspection.
Leaning into the mess, into the tension, into brokenness are missing rhythms in our churches. I admit this is my own lament. Perhaps you’re lucky, your community dwells in the fog. It’s countercultural, isn’t it? To sit in the desert?
When you linger you discover something too: God seeks you in the desert! It’s in the unknown, in the sorrow, in the despair, in the brokenness that a thirst emerges and is filled.
So why do many avoid the desert? It’s here, after all, where Salvation comes.
“You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in dry and parched land where there is no water…I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.”