Happy Monday, my friends! The church has entered the 40 days of examination and repentance known as Lent. We typically don’t wish each other a “Happy Lent,” but rather pray that we each will experience a “Holy Lent.” Unlike Advent, which is a period of preparation for Christmas, Lent is not just a time of preparation for Easter, but also remembers the 40 years that the tribes of Israel spent in the desert and the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. The Epistle appointed for yesterday said in part, “Therefore just as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man's act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous,” (Romans 5:18-19).
As I’ve personally prepared for Lent—which I honestly thought started this week not last—the topic of salvation in a theological and a practical context showed up in my life in two particular situations. First, reflecting on Lent in general, Pastor Joel Miller from Columbus Mennonite Church observed that Lent is about “decolonizing our minds” as we prepare now and each year for the moment of salvation on Good Friday and Easter. Lent, Joel said, is about unlearning the lessons of oppressive and abusive theology. Rather than fasting and denying ourselves certain pleasures, we need to focus our attention on what keeps us from Jesus’ radical message of love and justice.
Second, as many of you know, LOVEboldly and me personally have been engaging more on TikTok which is an interesting platform for so many reasons. Setting aside the concerns about security and the ties TikTok’s parent company has to Chinese intelligence and the Chinese military, TikTok is a global network of humans posting 15-second to 10-minute videos on every conceivable topic and offering short comments on each other’s videos. The possibilities for positive connection are endless, but the possibilities for hate and evil are also endless. We keep LOVEboldly’s content progressive and affirming but measured and most of the comments we receive are supportive. The same cannot be said for my personal TikTok page where I have already been called everything from a “false teacher” to “an unrepentant sinner” to “a deceiver.” I’ve been told that I’m going to hell and that I’m responsible for leading people to sin. Some of the comments I refuse to repeat because of how graphic they become. The negative comments align most sharply with how these people view salvation, how one accesses salvation, and what will happen when God judges people.
Salvation is at once a simple concept—Jesus died for our sins, and we are saved by God’s grace—and simultaneously a fantastically difficult reality involving any number of questions about original sin, the necessity of salvation, the economy of grace, human free will, and God’s foreknowledge. Approximately 45 people receive Monday Moments via email, and I imagine we have 46 different, nuanced takes on salvation. The diversity of those takes speaks to the human knowledge that the journey, not the destination, is often the most important part. Salvation, however you present it, is how we ultimately access God and heaven.
Where do you need to clear out? What does salvation mean to you?
Let us pray: God, who has been called our creator, our sustainer, and the author of our salvation, lead us through the holy days of Lent as we clear out that which is not of you and replace it with a readiness to do your work in the world. Orient our minds to the truth of private love which is tenderness and the public love which is justice. Help us focus on Jesus’ radical inclusiveness rather than learned patterns of oppression. However we pursue Lent, make us ready for the joy of Easter. Amen.
Blessings on your weeks, my friends! Let me know if there is anything I can do for you.