For the Living of These Days—A Word from Carol Harston

When we gathered for our HVAC congregational conversation recently, I named how odd it was that we were here. Not because the need for a new HVAC system is surprising, but because this is the type of conversation that only makes sense in the context of our faith as a Baptist church. Gathering people of different generations, backgrounds, neighborhoods, and personalities to discuss the intricacies of a HVAC system becomes holy work in light of shared responsibility for our sacred space and congregational authority over capital improvements.

Today, 42 fifth graders from Collegiate School down the street are coming to our church as they tour different worship spaces for a World Religions Course. I’ve got 45 minutes to summarize the Christian message, life, and practices (pretty simple, right?).

As I’ve considered what to say, I’ve thought of all the practices that are utterly peculiar and even foolish if not for the faith that shapes us: forgiving 70 times 7 times, loving our enemies, intergenerational mid-week dinners, dunking people underwater within the sanctuary while we repeat common language in unison, coming forward to receive a tiny piece of bread and a tiny drink of juice.

Our oldest son heard me talking about this last night to Drew, and I could see the wheels turning in his head as if he was thinking, “You’re right. This is crazy.”

Lent is one of those peculiar traditions. Tomorrow night, we will smudge ash upon our heads and go out into the world as living reminders of our mortality. If not for the promise that life is more significant than an accumulation of days, and its meaning is more profound than whatever legacy might remain when we are gone, what morose oddballs would we be?

Some people give up things or take on new practices for Lent. Whatever your Lenten commitment is, I hope that it is odd. I hope that it sounds peculiar when you say it out loud so that anyone who hears might ask, “Why would you do such a thing?”

May you speak with humility and courage as you answer. May your answer point towards this freedom that we find in Christ. May it sound like utter foolishness, as if you are learning to trust in the One who goes to the cross and lives to tell us, “Peace be with you. Do not be afraid.”