Though a necessary part of the church year, the season of Lent can stir up conflicted emotions and reactions among Christians. This week Marianne Avery, a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Wheaton, Ill., shares her poem, The Remembering. The poem depicts her struggle with the season, as she reflects on those who “live Lent on a daily basis.” St. Paul’s adult forum discussed the poem last November.
I’ve tallied countless Lenten journeys. I’ve been joined at the hip with the ELCA and its predecessor bodies since childhood. Then the penance and punishment stories of Roman Catholic friends were fascinating, and so my Lutheran counterpart held a certain excitement and sense of mystery for me. Add to that the warm memory of walking to a makeshift gymnasium sanctuary in Warrenville, Ill., with my mother and the infusion of doleful Lenten hymns into my consciousness. Feeling bad for six weeks felt good in those days.
As an adult I became frustrated and questioned the necessity of this routine. Many people already live Lent on a daily basis, feeling inadequate and unnecessary, never able to quite live up to their own or others’ expectations. Many more carry the burden of helplessness in the face of world events. For the church to compound these realities every 12 months seemed almost heartless. Easter seemed but a fleeting cure-all.
But I’ve experienced a shift in the focus of Lent at my congregation, which seems to allow the reflection and remembering of Lent to flow more smoothly, with less guilt and sadness, into the exhilaration of Easter and its incredible promise.
I knew you would be here again,
But for the life of me,
I don’t understand why.
What is it you need
That I haven’t already given you?
I freed you from condemnations
Of the Ancients:
Still, you sift my words
Back through them
As if to assure
There will always be
Brothers and sisters
To cast out of your comfort zone;
Some to meet their deaths.
No one can survive
Those suffocating filters.
I promised you would never die;
That you would spend
A small portion of your existence
As a mortal and the eternal remainder
With the Power that created us both.
Water would seal this Covenant.
Does my skin color disturb you;
My Jewishness rankle you?
I willed you to be color-blind;
You have become color blinded instead.
Perhaps my choice of friends
Stirs a burning in your belly.
Unsavory characters, many of them;
Crude, boisterous, not to be trusted;
Seamy, decadent and weak,
Add to these those who feared,
They were my friends, too.
Who are yours?
Healing was nothing new;
Feeding half the population
Not beyond reasonable understanding.
People accomplish amazing fetes of cooperation
Was my quiet request to a raging tempest
That it cease and desist,
Or running crazed pigs seaward,
Indeed pushing the limit of my credibility?
Keep in mind —
I also made up stories for your learning;
Mustard seeds and lost coins;
Wayward sons and glowing bushels;
Samaritans, wandering sheep,
Seeds on rocks and talents.
I numbered your hairs, for Godsake!
Why, after all this time,
Have you not gotten my message?
You lumber along,
Dragging ponderous dogma
And sedated followers.
I am, entangled in flowing robes
And repetitious ritual,
All submerging me into oblivion.
You have never allowed me
To be a spontaneous,
I am trapped
In an institutionalized manger...
According to your rigid schedule,
Those horrid, flaccid palms,
Now held only waist high
Sadden me and, I hope,
You as well.
We agreed to REMEMBER,
Not to re-crucify and re-resurrect.
Stop reminding me
Of the blinding pain and humiliation.
Look! My hands have healed!
See! On my side,
Only a wizened scar!
How can we move ahead
While habitually returning?
Or, is it that you need more Lents,
And still more bloody, sacrificial acts!
I implore you,
Stop re-inventing my mission for you...
Re-invent, instead, your sense of oneness
With me as you pursue it—
DRAW IN THE OUTCASTS, BE THE CREATURES I HAVE TAUGHT YOU
I am JESUS, the healer, the healedl!!
I am JESUS, the lover!!
I am JESUS, the do-er!!
I am JESUS, who lives among you
In the battery and wounding of the world,
Where blood runs freely...
I am JESUS, drawing you into myself, REMEMBERING in the bread and
I am gone from the tomb once for all!!
There shall be no returning!!
I left you with the REMEMBERING!!
And I wait.....
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