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Zion Lutheran: Imagine a Lenten season reimagined

There is a story in the fourth chapter of John's Gospel about a woman Jesus meets at a well. We don't know much about her, but we do know that she has been married to five different men and was now cohabitating with a sixth. We know she is languishing under the weight of crushing expectations and not measuring up to the societal standards of the day.

Now it would be easy to assume that she must be in this position because she is promiscuous or immoral, but the text doesn't say that. You see, people died young in those days, often in their 30s and 40s. Furthermore, in those days men could quite easily divorce their wives for little or no reason, a burnt tray of baklava perhaps. It is therefore wrongheaded and a mistake to assume a moral failing on her part. But it didn't stop the other women from talking of course, from glaring judgmentally at her, from keeping her at the margins. It's probably why in the story Jesus found her coming alone, in the heat of the day, long after the other more "respectable" women had retrieved their water.

As we read, we soon discover that Jesus knows all this. He knows her. He knows what she has seen and experienced, all that has brought her to this point. There is no pretension, no hiding the facts of her case. Yet Jesus takes the time to talk with her, share a drink of water with her, to see her, really see her for who she is. A woman trying as hard as she can to make her way in this world with the hand she has been dealt.

Jesus sees her, knows her and loves her all the same. He doesn't love some idea of her or hold out that love as a prize if she can "get her life together." No. Jesus sees her, knows her in that moment, all that she is and all that she isn't and he loves her.

For many in the Christian tradition we are in the season of Lent. Among many themes in this season is the recognition that we are imperfect. That we are falling, failing, and flailing our way through life. The recognition that we are buried beneath a heap of guilt and unmet expectations. I wonder if instead of giving something up or taking something on - of running on that hamster wheel a little harder or jumping a bit higher - what it might mean to use this season of Lent to recognize that we are known. We are known by God. All that we are and all that we aren't is there on full display, yet Jesus takes time for us, to become one of us, to suffer and die for us. Jesus knows who we really are, who you really are, and loves you all the same.

Don't get me wrong, expectations and responsibility have their place. And, if you want to take something on or give something up that's great, blessings on your endeavor. But in this season, I invite you to explore what it means to be known, to be loved by God.

Writer Pastor CJ Boettcher is the senior pastor at Zion Lutheran Church, 1000 Washington Ave., Cloquet. Visit him at the church or call 218-879-4647.

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