Today’s Lent Project devotional is by Brendan Trinkle. Brendan and his wife, Lindsay, are members of our Leadership Team and host the Midtown Table Group.
Something I’ve picked up on in the Lent Project blogs so far is a shared desire by our community to approach scripture with two attitudes – openness to what the passages have to say, and honesty about how we meet them. I’m glad to be in such company, and to consider the myriad other people of faith in the world who approach knowing God with the same heart.
Today’s scriptures are, as Jonathan put it a few days ago, lacking in “tidiness and bows” for my understanding. David’s Psalms are as desperately human as scripture gets, with vows to “destroy all the wicked in the land, cutting off all evildoers from the city of the Lord” (101:8) and cries to the Lord against enemies, “that he may cut off the memory of them from the earth!” (109:15). Oddly, Psalm 109 is addressed to “the choirmaster” – imagine singing that kind of vindictive refrain in church this weekend! In contrast, the verses from Psalm 119 are near stream-of-consciousness prayers of worship and requests for God to see and reward the Psalmist’s devotion, for salvation from the troubles that beset him.
In Genesis 50 we have the end of the roller-coaster story that is the life of Joseph, in which he returns good for the evil done to him by his brothers years before. The scene is penultimate to Joseph’s death; it reads as if perhaps this one decision to forgive is the thing toward which his whole life was purposed. In 1 Corinthians 12, knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord is affirmed to be of the Holy Spirit, along with all spiritual gifts. In Mark 8, Jesus performs a miraculous feeding of thousands, but only after they have had nothing to eat for three days.
As a confession, I’ve not spent much time intentionally thinking about the purpose of Lent this season. Instead I’ve found myself thinking a lot about what it means to be a human, one who wants to know God, if God is real and can be known. My sense as I write is that this is something of an involuntary experiment in Lenten posture, only instead of giving up some mild vice for a month, I’m surrendering a larger distraction — my worldview.
The Christianity I’ve inhabited for a long time would hesitate to include Psalm 101:8 or 109:15 in a church blog, for example, as if that kind of passion against an enemy were not a real part of human experience. It would talk up the Christlike grace of Joseph to his brothers, but lock away its disappointment that the next significant thing mentioned about him is his death. It would come to these texts with more assumption than openness, more guilt than honesty. I wonder if the shift is simply God making more room for himself.
Openness to scripture allows us to recognize the many facets of human interaction with the divine – we are angry, we are desperate, we are grateful, we are bold, we worship, we are gifted, we are confused. In honesty, I find myself likewise angry, desperate, bold, and confused when I meet with scripture lately, if somewhat lacking in gratitude and worshipfulness. My hope is that openness and honesty will continue to create more space in our hearts for God to fill us with the things we lack.