by Rev. David Rommereim
The great American writer James Baldwin wrote about "doing our first works over." That is a great theme for our Lent Experience at Good Shepherd. Through the first few centuries of the Christian movement Lent was a chance to re-train those who left the church due to "bad attitudes" or "bad behavior" or "bad gossip that harmed leaders" or even lethargy. Their faith went sour. Then it was during the Lent Season that the leaders of the church community allowed them to return if they would do some penance.
When the ancient congregations practiced the 50 Days of Lent for those who left the church for some reason or another, the ministers gave direction for those who were mean-spirited to return. They had to "do their first works over." They took the 50 days of Lent (not including Sundays) to practice being less selfish and more communal, less "me, me, me" and more "we, we, we." It worked. People got a chance to reconcile and regain the composure of being part of a lively healing community.
On another level, Dr. Larry Rasmussen, retired Ethicist from Union Theological Seminary in Manhattan, used these same words from James Baldwin to turn our hearts toward a sane recovery in moral, ethical, and political integrity. He knows we live in a polarized, mixed up world. The world we are handing down to this new generation is riddled with personal self-interest that takes precedence over the faithful wholeness of community well-being, care for the earth, and hospitality to the sojourner. The fact that our culture is hell-bent on disregarding the wellness of the other, and of the earth, has catastrophic ramifications. This present generation and the next generations are in deep peril.
Lent is time to be honest and to seek to "do our first works over" so that we can recover the integrity, the challenges of being a people of faith, and the power of Jesus' political love that begins with you, and with how you build an honest community.
To be honest here are a few of the issues facing us from moment to moment:
First, "follow the money" and the expansive, unchecked, reckless income from the marginal elite. This is morally reprehensible in a democracy dedicated to the promotion of the general welfare.
Second, remember that 400,000 persons have been deported in the last four years while their families are broken and their children lose their parent(s); our foster care system is under severe stress; is this ethically dangerous to the wellbeing of our families?
Third, You and I have out spent the world in health care costs per capita. Yet, vast millions remain without quality care. Since the Christian Church in Antioch was the first to develop health care systems for all people (Christian, non-Christian, Roman citizens and non-citizens) is the American system ruining the Church's role in healthcare?