The word used for the Church season between Epiphany and Easter is Lent, which derives from an old word for spring, a season of increasing light.  Originally Lent was a time of intensive preparation for the sacrament of baptism at the Easter Vigil service.  In more northern climes, fasting was a needed discipline in late winter and early spring as stores of foods had to be carefully managed until the reviving earth could provide further food.  Over the centuries, Lent shifted into a time of penitence and self-denial, reflecting and imitating to some degree, the sufferings of Christ.  As a result, Lent developed into a downer of a season – no fun, no joy, minor key music, self-denial, growing gloom.  But this isn’t the way Lent has always been observed.


To re-orient thinking about Lent, I’m posing the following 40 questions.  I am not promising to write on one each day.  However, further posts in the next few weeks will explore some of the general themes in these.  Here we go …

  1. What would happen if we approached Lent with full awareness of how the story ends (instead of pretending like we don’t)?
  2. We start with story of Jesus facing temptation in the wilderness; what would change if we took the satan to mean accuser or prosecutor, rather than the proper name of a specific being?
  3. What does it mean to see the Law as Words for Life, not a checklist of good and bad behaviors?
  4. What would it mean if we understood Jesus as citing the whole of Psalm 22 when he cries out the first line of it while hanging on the cross?
  5. What would it mean if Christ on the cross is an expression of God’s lament for the world God has made and loves?
  6. What would the crucifixion mean in light of John 3:16, For God so loved the world… ?
  7. What might Jesus’ death mean as a scapegoat rather than a sacrifice or substitute object of punishment?
  8. What could it mean if life out of death were the center of the gospel, the heart of the good news?
  9. What does it mean to have Jesus as King, crowned with thorns and enthroned on the cross?
  10. What does if mean that God is suffering in the death of Jesus, not only a human being?
  11. What does it mean to regard sin as a tendency or orientation, not a specific action?
  12. How might we read and tell the story differently if the inevitable consequences of sinful actions and attitudes were the only punishment for sin, that no further penalties are required by God?
  13. What could it mean if Jesus’ death is not a payment for a debt, something God had to have?
  14. What has come from equating dark with death and evil – and what might come if dark were seen as generative, like a womb, or the earth in which seeds are buried?
  15. What could it mean to define faith or belief as trust, rather than intellectual assent to unprovable propositions?
  16. How would worship be different if we were celebrating the Reign and Realm of God, rather than demonstrating our contrition for our sins or something we do to please God?
  17. What does it mean to say, as we do in worship, that this Jesus – crucified, dead, and risen – is truly Lord of All?
  18. What does it mean to take baptism seriously, as death and resurrection … as a pattern for living?
  19. What does communion mean if we are what we eat (and what we drink)?
  20. What could it mean if the church/congregation was a group of disciples (students of Jesus) with good news to share?
  21. What happens when we view Jesus’ life and death as changing us and how we relate to God, not changing God or how God relates to us?
  22. What does it mean to be redeemed?
  23. What does it mean to see Jesus’ way as practical, something we can actually practice and do in real life?
  24. What could happen if define atonement as at-one-ment rather than some sort of compensation?
  25. What might it mean if this at-one-ment is the healing and renewing of the earth and all creation, not a payment for sin?
  26. What would it mean if we regarded the disciplines of Lent as training and practice, not punishment or negative consequences for behavior?
  27. What is the real struggle with temptation to which Lent invites us – actions or attitudes?
  28. What if Christian faith and practice were regarded as a communal endeavor, rather than an individual’s choices?
  29. What does new covenant mean in terms of re-making, renewing and expansion, rather than a replacement of something old or outdated?
  30. How might our individual griefs and sorrows be a piece in God’s great sorrow?
  31. What would it mean to take repentance (metanoia) and grace as a power for that transformation seriously?
  32. What does it mean to see the promise of eternal life as the life of eternity rather than living forever in some alternate place of existence?
  33. What if salvation isn’t about escaping from this world but a mission within it?
  34. Are all forms of suffering, any and every one of them, redemptive?
  35. How is it that Christians are currently defined by what they reject … deny … detest rather than by their love?
  36. What does God’s choice of power-under demonstrated in Christ on the cross have to say to us when we value power-over?
  37. How is it that Christians seek affiliation with privilege rather than with Jesus’ sisters and brothers, the least of these?
  38. What does it mean when Christian leaders publicly extol actions, attitudes, behaviors contrary to that of Christ?
  39. What does it mean when Christian leaders and those who call themselves Christian openly support people who revel in violations of God’s directions?
  40. How can we continue with an attitude “this is just the way of things” after the crucifixion of God?