Guiding Scriptures: Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38
The Wilderness we enter during Lent is a choice. We can choose to mindfully engage in the Lenten Wilderness by fasting from daily satisfactions be that food, behavior or activity. We can also enter the Lenten Wilderness by taking on practices such as daily journaling, acts of service, or other commitments. Nonetheless, our engagement with the Lenten Wildness is optional, a choice. There is no choice, however, for brothers and sisters who permanently live in the margins – margins of race, class, economics, gender, sexual orientation and identity, documentation and the intersections of multiple marginalities.
So what does it mean to enter the Lenten Wilderness for persons like myself – white, heterosexual, educated, employed, middle class, with relative wealth? It means that to follow Jesus, according to today’s gospel text, I have to walk with Jesus and not, like Peter, be ordered to get behind him ….that the way of the cross is a way of risking rejection and suffering. But rejection and suffering at whose hands?? Rejection and suffering that come at the hands that look the most like mine.
Peter’s rebuke of Jesus is so very understandable!! Indeed! Who in their right mind wants or seeks out suffering and rejection. That’s crazy! And while Peter is not crazy, he is not thinking God’s thoughts. As Reverend Julian DeShazier said during a recent class, our task as ministers and leaders is to think God’s thought and to talk God’s talk; that is to view our world and our common ministry through a particular set of lens of God-centered purposes…that of creating the Beloved Community; of leading just and sustainable communities.
The Lenten Wilderness calls me, yes, reminds me of that suffering; reminds me of the refining fire that is necessary for building the Beloved Community. It is a giving up and rejecting of the privileges and power that destroy rather than build up. It is a willingness to give up rights and privileges to live in authentic relationships with sisters and brothers on the margins. It is to think God thoughts; to talk God’s talk; to act God’s way. It is not unlike God’s invitation to Abram, Walk with me and be trustworthy. (Gen.17:1)
In Romans 4:13-25, Abraham, even though he was nearly 100 years old, his body nearly dead, (not to mention Sarah’s old body, too) didn’t lose faith in God’s promise. He didn’t hesitate with a lack of faith in God’s promise, but he grew strong in faith and gave glory to God. He was fully convinced that God was able to do what he promised.
The Lenten Wilderness, the rejection of privilege and power, the solidarity with sisters and brothers at the margins, is a choice; a choice made each day – sometimes a choice made moment by moment. It is to deny the rebuking Peter part of me and strive for the witness of Abram who didn’t hesitate with a lack of faith in God’s promise. It is to respond to God’s invitation Walk with me and be trustworthy. May it be so.
Reverend Dr. Joanne Lindstrom is the Jean & Frank Mohr Director of Experiential Education and Field Studies Associate Professor of Ministry. She also serves as Associate Regional Minister for American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago. For the past 21 years, Joanne has served as Associate Minister of the First Baptist Church of Chicago, an African American congregation located in Hyde Park.