Remaining in Lent

“Am I staying, or am I going?”
“Am I going to remain, or are am I leaving?”
“Am I staying in, or am I out of here?”

These are the questions that I have heard more than any other in pastoral ministry.

Sure, the question isn’t always expressed in these precise words,
but the sense of it is pretty constant.

I’ve found my way in to Christian faith,
either through birth and upbringing,
or via a path of personal spiritual struggle,
and the question now is, am I staying or am I going?

“Am I going to remain in this story,
in this faith,
in this community,
and with this God,
or not?”

In fact, I’m willing to suggest that at the heart of it,
this is what is really going on in every pastoral conversation
that I’ve ever had.

Actually I’ll go further and suggest that this question,
or some close variation of it,
has been asked by pretty much everyone
who regularly finds themselves on this website..

You see, my hunch is that most folks in the Empire Remixed readership
struggle, week in and week out, with that question.
We aren’t a group who easily take Christian faith for granted.

No, our struggles have been too deep for a cheap and easy faith.
Struggles with a faith that proved abusive,
or maybe with past Christian leaders who were abusive.
Struggles with experiences of betrayal at the hands of the church,
or maybe even at the hands of God!
Struggles with feelings of rejection from fellow Christians,
that maybe mirror our own feelings of self-rejection.
Struggles with a faith that has proclaimed the Truth,
while making common cause with the forces of Deceit.

For a lot of us,
“faith lost its promise and bruised us deep blue.”

So it is no surprise that the question is,
are we staying in or on our way out?
For some of us, this is the burning question every Tuesday morning
as we stumble into the Wycliffe chapel.

Remain or leave?

Jesus seems to understand this.

Indeed, on the verge of his own departure,
as he is preparing the disciples for his own leaving,
he invites them over and over again to remain,
he invites them over and over again to abide.

Remain in me as I remain in you.
Those who remain in me bear much fruit.
Remain in my word.
Remain in my love.

Remain in my love.
Abide in my love.
Take up your residence in my love.
Be at home in my love.

Lent is a time for remaining,
for staying put,
for abiding.

Or perhaps Lent is a good time to remain long enough,
to stay with enough intentionality,
to abide without a restlessness,
as you discern whether you are staying or going,
whether you are remaining or leaving,
whether you make home here or not.

Maybe that is why the church focuses on our faith journey during Lent.
Maybe that is why the church brings Lent to a close at Easter
with baptisms and the reconfirmation of faith.

Lent gives us the opportunity to remain,
in prayer,
in acts of generosity and justice,
in self-reflection,
in the Word.

So, dear friends, I encourage you to ‘remain’ in Lent.
Remain in Jesus,
remain in his word,
remain in the embrace of his love.
And maybe, just maybe, this Easter
you will make a renewed commitment to remain,
a renewed commitment to abiding in Jesus.

So where are you?
Are you in or out?
Remaining, leaving, already gone,
or struggling on the threshold?

Will you take the time over the next few weeks,
to stay, to remain, to discern?


Brian Walsh
Brian is an activist theologian, a retired CRC campus minister, the founder of the Wine Before Breakfast community, and farms with Sylvia Keesmaat at Russet House Farm.He engages issues of theology and culture, and has written a couple of books you might want to check out. His most recent offering is cowritten with Sylvia Keesmaat and entitled Romans Disarmed: Resisting Empire, Demanding Justice.

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