A COVID Lenten Reflection

by Pastor Eddie

Posted on February 23rd, 2021 ()

Reflections on a common Lenten practice in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic

31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

Mark 8:31-38 (NRSV)

It is interesting to see how the church has come to see the season of Lent as a time when we have to give up something. This practice of “giving for Lent” while it may provide a means for us to observe the Lenten season, it can also be quite misleading. Whether it is chocolate, Netflix, YouTube, chips or bubble tea, these self-denying gestures can still be self-directed. They may give an appearance of piety and make us feel good doing them. But if we are to scrutinize these gestures more closely, we will find they do not qualify as what Lutherans would refer to as “good works.” Being good Lutherans, we know we are justified by grace through faith and not by doing good works. But good works are still needed, and we are still expected to do them for the sake of our neighbors. So, unless giving up on chocolate, bingeing on Netflix, YouTube, or locking up the bags of chips, or not stopping for bubble tea does somehow help our neighbors, then these are merely another one of Satan’s clever attempts to fool us into thinking that we are doing good when we are really serving ourselves.

But if we think about what Luther considers as good works, then what we have being doing during the pandemic already qualifies. If by not gathering physically for worship or large-scale social functions; if by social distancing and wearing masks when we are in public places; we can mitigate against community spread. And if by giving up our freedom, we can protect the vulnerable from suffering and death. Are these gestures not worthy good works since they are done for the sake of our neighbors? More importantly, are they not also acts of self-denial that we are called to do as disciples of Jesus Christ. Setting our minds on divine things does not mean sticking our heads in the clouds, but looking at the plight of those in our communities and giving ourselves to meet their needs.

Heavenly Father, turn our minds away from human things and set them on divine things so we may become more like your Son Jesus Christ. Amen.

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