“You say you want a
Well, you know
We all want to change the world …”
The world today is as restless as it was in the late 60’s when the Beatles released their song. Many today want to change the world every bit as much as those young protesters who marched in the 60’s, trying to force a revolution. As the writer of Ecclesiastes says, “there is nothing new under the sun” (1.9).
Why is it that despite all the efforts expended by so many people over the span of centuries things are still such a mess? In the world of Calvinism, we talk about the human condition as one of “total depravity.” That is, we human beings — even the best among us — make a royal mess of things and the only way out is through God’s initiative.
Martin Luther, a revolutionary of the same era as John Calvin, recognized this as he faced the crisis of his desire to do what is right and his continuing failure to do so. Even when we “get saved” we never seem to move away from the need for the cross.
The Apostle Paul wrestled with this a millennia and a half before Martin Luther and John Calvin. “I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7.18-19).
Calvin, Luther, Paul, all recognized that on our own we humans remain in a world of hurt. They also remind us that by breaking into the world in the person of Jesus, God has taken the initiative that we cannot take for ourselves.
Lent is a sobering season of reminder of our sinfulness and brokenness. On Wednesday, many of us entered worship to receive an ashen mark of the cross upon our foreheads. It marks us as a peculiar people. Ashes on the forehead are a mark and a reminder of our sinful, broken human condition, of our own part in those acts that nailed Jesus to the cross.
Ash Wednesday begins a journey to Jesus, a journey with Jesus, through the wilderness, to confront the temptations that would have us say “no” to God’s ways. In this sense, Lent is a turning inward for self-reflection and discernment. The journey also bids us turn our focus out towards the world, to weigh and commit to the costs of discipleship.
The spiritual disciplines of the Lenten journey — prayer, Scripture meditation, moral inventory, acts of service and generosity — are acts of cultivating and letting go. They lead us through dark valleys. But the journey doesn’t leave us there. It points us toward the horizon, to the bright and glorious light of the Resurrection and new life.
You say you want to change the world. Change begins with your own Lenten journey.
If you would like a devotional journal to help you on your journey, email me at Camille.firstname.lastname@example.org.