One of our most powerful meditation resources this Lent is Meeting Jesus on the Margins: Meditations on Matthew 25.
These reflections look at Jesus’ mission with the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned—the marginalized.
Today, Ash Wednesday, we’re posting the first reflection from the volume, written by Mike Kinman. It’s part of a first section that focuses on the matter of hunger in its myriad forms. We hope you find meaning in Mike’s words, and share them as you see fit.
February 10 Ash Wednesday
Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. —The Book of Common Prayer, pp. 264-5
The simplest question is the most useful: Why?
We need always to be asking “Why?” and not letting our quickest answers, which are most deeply rooted in our prejudices, be our final answer.
When we see someone using the steps of a public library as a bed at night, we need to ask “Why?”
When we read a story about a transgender teenager committing suicide, we need to ask “Why?”
When we go into a grocery store in an impoverished neighborhood and see a fully stocked liquor shelf and no fresh produce, we need to ask “Why?”
When we learn we incarcerate a higher percentage of our citizens than any nation in the world, we need to ask “Why?”
When we see young people of color burn down the Quik Trip convenient store in Ferguson, Missouri, we need to ask “Why?”
And as we embark on our Lenten journey, we need to ask “Why?”
Our first answer, rooted in what we’ve always been taught, might be that we observe Lent as an exercise in self-flagellation, so that, in Paul’s words, we might not “think of ourself more highly than we ought” (Romans 12:3). We might think our Lenten observance is grounded in our unworthiness. But we need to dig deeper.
The prayer at the beginning of our Ash Wednesday liturgy gives us the answer. We observe a holy Lent to remember Jesus’ gospel of “pardon and absolution.” Lent is not about confession and repentance as punishment but as a profound, grace-filled unburdening so that we might encounter the living Christ in all Christ’s abundant joy.
This book sets our Lenten journey in that context of meeting Christ…meeting Christ right where he tells us he will be…in the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick, and the prisoner. It is a journey of seeing all those people as Jesus. Of asking “Why?” and not being satisfied by our first answer. Of realizing that those whom the world of power and privilege label as “them” are really the deepest and most sacred portion of “us.”
Click here to get a copy of Meeting Jesus on the Margins, or to download the book to your e-reader.