Formations 04.12.2020: Giving Things Up for Lent

John 2:13-25

John places Jesus’ “cleansing of the temple” near the beginning of his Gospel rather than at the end, as the Synoptic Gospels do. In John, this symbolic act foreshadows the many controversies that Jesus will face and that will eventually end with the crucifixion. It’s a familiar story to most of us. Stirred to action by the moneychangers in the temple, Jesus overturns their tables and drives off their animals.

I am writing this reflection from the small office (actually just a desk, a lamp, and some bookshelves) in the corner of my basement, where I have worked for what seems at least a month but I know has only been about two weeks. Apart from a small number of grocery cashiers and take-out restaurant workers, my only face-to-face human contact has been with the members of my immediate family. And the central question I’m called to address is, “What does Jesus want to remove from my life?”

Very funny, Lord.

In all seriousness, though, today’s central question can’t help but take on new meaning as most of us are staying home and practicing social distancing to stem the spread of the coronavirus. Do I really need to go shopping, eat out, get a haircut, or take in a movie at the theater? Do I really need to get out of the house at all? Would it be a kindness to my neighbors with compromised immunity to put it off until later?

Someone on my Facebook feed said this was the Lentiest Lent he’d ever Lented. Maybe that’s the right way to look at things. Even if we’ve never given up anything for Lent in our lives, this year we’ve been called to give up quite a bit. I suspect it would do me well to consider how those things—even good and proper things—reflect my life’s priorities, and whether they were ever really in line with God’s priorities. Do I really need to spend as much as I do on things that give me temporary pleasure but make no lasting difference? Do I really need to waste my time in idle talk? Do I really need to work so hard at things that don’t matter?

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, John tells us, the disciples remembered their Master’s words about the fall and rise of “this temple” and understood their deeper meaning (vv. 20-21).

Discussion

• What do you miss most in this season of self-isolation?
• What does missing this reveal about your priorities?
• How can you use this season to cleanse unworthy things from your life?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.

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