Every year, I watch the posts fly about what individuals are “giving up” for Lent. The crash diets and motivation to finally clean out the closets are worthy of being posted on social media, but I question if they really challenge us to understand the meaning of Lent and the sacrifice which we remember during Holy Week. As I pondered how I would approach this Lenten season, I decided that I wanted to turn things around in my own life and rather than give something up or give something away, I will take something on, just as Christ took on the sins of the world in his own death.
Over the next several weeks, I will strive to “take on” one new thing each week, in turn striving to take on more of the love and grace which Christ exhibited throughout his life, death, and resurrection. I hope that you will join me and share your own experiences!
Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. 2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. 4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-figtree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.
7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.”
8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”
9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Luke 19:1-10 (NIV)
I have found that when it comes to sitting with someone in their times of pain and discernment, I struggle. I am a fixer and want to help right away, fixing things based on the way that I see them, have experienced them, and would like for them to be. More often than not, my perspective and experience is so far away from the other individual’s and as I leave, I wonder if I hurt more than I helped.
Sitting in the midst of one of these moments, I looked at the table next to the individual and my gaze landed on The Big Book for Alcoholics Anonymous. The image sat with me for a while after the conversation and I realized that this book might be an entry point, not just for this individual but for so many others. I ordered a copy and promised to also make a point to attend an open Alcoholics Anonymous meeting – not because I have an addiction, but because I am seeking the perspective on another.
So often we think that if we open ourselves to experience the perspective of another person, our own perspective loses value when in fact, I believe that by seeking to understand the perspective of others in a deeper way, we deepen our own at the same time.
As I consider the life of Christ, I can’t help but believe that Christ is God seeking to understand and live among the perspective of God’s own creation. Throughout Hebrew scripture we read of a tension between the people and God – the people struggling to understand a distant God and God struggling to connect with confused people. When Christ enters the picture, we see the relationship between God’s people begin to strengthen through the One who is both fully human and fully divine.
As Christ shared God’s challenging and grace filled word with the confused and struggling people, Christ also sat with them and ate with them. Christ became friends with the people and listened to their stories. Through Christ’s active presence with the people, he began to understand their perspective and was able to minister to them in a more complete and meaningful way. Christ was shaped in a new way through this understanding, yet still fully divine as he was fully human. The people were shaped in a more complete way, fully human yet understanding the divine a bit more.
When we limit ourselves to our own perspective and experiences, we in turn limit those who we minister both to and with; we limit our own understanding of the way in which God is working in creation. When we open our hearts and ears to sit with and hear from others, our world opens up and God’s love can shine brighter as the stories and lives meld together.
Rounding the corner in this Lenten season, preparing to welcome Christ into town with shouts of “Hosanna!”, let us each strive to open our hearts to hearing and reflecting on the experiences and perspectives of those around us. Reading The Big Book and attending an AA meeting does not make me an alcoholic, but it does open my heart and mind to understand that experience a bit better. What can you open your heart and mind to this week, taking on that wide open, welcoming ministry of Christ?
You have created each one us,
unique in mind and body.
You have called each one us,
joined together in one Love.
Open our hearts and minds,
empower us to our lives,
So that together we might shout “Hosanna!”
and together we might see you walk by.
Rev. Jordan B. Davis (M.Div.’14)
Associate Pastor, Youth & Young Adults
Kirk of Kildaire, Presbyterian (Cary, NC)