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Lenten Reflections: Our True Authentic Selves

'Daffodils' photo (c) 2012, Tejvan Pettinger - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Lectionary readings:

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11

Mark 6:13-29

2 Timothy 2:8-17

By Mark A. Zaineddin  

In many parts of the Middle East and Central Asia, the New Year has historically commenced on March 21, the first day of Spring.  I have often found something comforting and logical about this. For this is a time when the daffodils, crocuses, and, in Washington, D.C., cherry blossoms begin to bloom, when baby lambs frolic in idyllic pastures and robins chirp in the warmth of the day, and when the snow of a long and often bleak winter melts off the hillsides of mountains and the lawns of towns.  Spring is a time of rebirth, a time of renewal, a time when the old has passed and everything has become new once again. Indeed, in Persian, the name for New Year’s is Nowruz, or literally "new day." 

And yet, to get to this day, we must often experience darkness and despair, death and dreariness.  We must go through the season of winter where when growing up, at least in my hometown in upstate New York, gray appeared to be the color of prominence.  It was seemingly the rule rather than the exception—skies of dark gray, roads frequently lined with battleship gray ash, and long-standing snow often the color of gray soot. It is no coincidence that seasonal affective disorder is so common in the depths of a long drawn-out winter. 

Perhaps it is also no coincidence that the season of Lent, the season that ultimately takes us to Easter resurrection, comes at this time of year. For it is during Lent that we take the time to deeply examine our relationship to God.  Individually, we may ask ourselves, “Am I moving toward or away from God?  Have I let my pride get the better of me?  Have I denied my true and authentic self due to fear or the need for power or as a result of hubris or the temptation for extreme material or economic success?”

It is not easy going through the season of Lent, and its introspective reflection and self-awareness.  Yet, we need not do this alone. We can walk with Jesus, knowing that he will be tempted, that he will be denied and betrayed, and that he will be heinously crucified but ultimately resurrected.  We can walk with Jesus knowing that the deaths of winter will bring the life of sprin—and that the long Lenten journey will lead to the new Easter creation.         

The reading in Ecclesiastes today may seem quite disturbing.  To many, it reads like life is meaningless and that in the scheme of things, we really do not matter.  But perhaps it is a cautious reminder that the seasons will continue and the generations will come and go long after we have passed from this earth.  Perhaps it is a reminder for us to humble ourselves, especially in a world that too often seems to favor strong egos and rampant individualistic tendencies. How often have we tried to be the center of attention, to act as if the world centered solely around us?

And then in Mark, we find King Herod beheading John the Baptist out of a sense of honor and pride. Herod knows that he has betrayed his true self. He grieves because he could not resist his daughter’s wish to see John’s head on a banquet platter. How often have we led masked lives because of how we felt we “ought” to be seen or did things out of vanity or fear? 

And yet in Second Timothy, we are reminded that when we die with Christ, we live with Christ.  When we die with Christ, we rid ourselves of that falseness and this leads us to truly be the children of God that we are.  And when we live with Christ, we endure and we help bring in that new dawn, that new creation here and today.

Prayer: Loving God, let us during this season of Lent take the time to truly examine who we are and who we have become.  May we be comforted by you as we trudge through the depths of winter to realize the heights of spring, through the dark days of Lent to the shining dawn of Easter.  May our false inauthentic selves vanish so that our true authentic selves may live.  Amen.           

Mark A. Zaineddin is a member of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, in Washington, D.C. This post is reprinted, with permission,  from NYAPC's 2013 Lenten Meditations booklet. 

 

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