Commencing Lent with Ash Wednesday 2009

“We live in the city of death.  All the cities and societies of the world are places of death.  We look to and serve first one and then some other power of ideology and institution- on and on, over and over again- in order to find the City of Salvation, but each one turns out to be itself consigned to death, a witness to death’s power and reign.  It is through these idols which are themselves acolytes of death that death tempts us with the hope of our own salvation.  Death tempts us by promising to save us from death; that is how cruel and vain and filled with guile death is.

All images of the good society– all panaceas and utopias; all idealism and ideologies; all provisional hopes, compromises, appeasements, corruptions, and failures in the life of humans in society in this world- are in the repertoire of death’s temptations.  Plato’s republic, Constantine’s empire, Rousseau’s social contract, Jeffersonian democracy, Marx’s classless society, free enterprise, and world government are specific forms by which humans are solicited, enticed, or coerced into the service of death..all such principalities in turn pay homage to death and are subject to it even as they promise  us salvation.

God builds the City of Salvation.  It is not some never-never land, some alabaster city beyond the realm of time, but a City, whatever be the final shape and reality of its fulfillment at the end of time, which has form and actuality here and now in the midst of this history.”

–  William Stringfellow

May disciples of Jesus remember as Lent begins that we are expected to be a people apart in the world, a people of repentance and humility and suffering love, an example to the world of what the world is made for.  We do not exist to point to some ethereal heaven, but to exist as a testament that heaven is coming to earth, and we will live this way even if we are hated and considered ridiculous.

Lent, then, is a season of repentance and of stripping away; a season where we intentionally take time out to examine ourselves, to remove some of the pleasures of our life in order to know what really matters.  It is a season where we choose the darkness of forsaking pleasures so we might be able to see what idols we depend on for our security, what powers of death we lean on and believe are our savlation.  We must not settle for less.


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