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A Holy Monday Reflection from Rev. Bentley Stewart


“Remember that you are dust, and to dust, you shall return.” And so, begins Lent. Such a Goth beginning; “Mortal, one day you will die.” I love it. Of course, one of my favorite T-shirts proclaims, “My unyielding melancholy brings all the existentialists to the yard,” and I have a treasured picture of Eeyore hugging me. A recent picture. From my last birthday. 

We came from dust, and to dust we will return. What are we doing with the in-between? I like this navel-gazing version of Lent. I’m all for spending 40 days lying in the grass, near the still water, posing to myself Mary Oliver’s question: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” 

For me, Lent is all about questions. 

However, Lent keeps going and asks more questions. What, if anything, does Jesus have to do with how I’m living my life? What does it mean to find my life in his way of being in the world? What does it mean to follow Jesus, to be a “little d” disciple, in my time and place? And do I still want to sign up for that? 

Lent does not stop with those questions either. Because it’s not just the turning water into wine, good times Jesus, or the wise Rabbi of parables. Lent asks what my life has to do with Christ crucified, to borrow a phrase from Paul. 

Yesterday, in many churches around the world, people waved palm branches. And some of those palm branches will become next year’s ashes. Perhaps symbolism of how the cries of “Hosanna” of the Triumphal Entry are replaced by another crowd’s calls to “crucify him.”

Why do we do this? Why do we center this trauma? Wouldn’t it be nicer to move quicker to the mystery of the empty tomb?  

The world is already too sad. Talk about resurrection! 

While many, understandably, rush to Easter, Lent is a reminder that even though Empires have come and gone, we still live in a crucifying culture. 

Such a peculiar faith that centers the lynching of one who revealed divinity amid humanity. In this, we get our tradition’s response to the perennial question about God’s relationship to suffering and injustice. However, we don’t get an answer. 

Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

…and we don’t get an answer. Rather, we get solidarity in the question. 

Lent is a field of practice that prepares us to be in solidarity with one another as each of us faces seasons of suffering. Will we show up at the crosses and tombs of this death-dealing culture? Will we show up for the world that God so loves? 


 

Rev. Bentley Stewart serves as a Pediatric Palliative Care Chaplain at Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children. While in California, he spent time as a congregational pastor, a church planter, an Anti-Racism trainer, a DSF mentor for seminarians, and a street chaplain for people experiencing homelessness. He is an alumnus of DSF/SFTS (M.Div./2015). Bentley was ordained into the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in 2015, in his hometown of Orlando, FL, where he recently returned to be near family. He is married to Sasha and has two adult sons.  

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