The First Sunday in Lent

On the road I listen to many podcasts. This week I listened to a new one. (I had finished listening to The Lutheran Inquisitor on Lutheran Radio UK – how’s that for an unashamed ‘plug’ – yes, a promotion for something you should listen to on the internet! 😊 ) The new podcast I listened to was ‘Imaginary Worlds’ which describes itself as ‘a podcast about science fiction, fantasy, and other genres of speculative fiction’ and the episode was about how the world was ‘catching up’ to the future described in a 1990’s novel ‘Snow Crash’. As you might imagine, I found it fascinating, for the claims many technologies we accept today such as Google Earth, Google Books, YouTube, Siri had their origins in this novel and a vision of the future provided engineering inspiration. Humanity is always wanting to make our living better – to make a heaven on earth so to speak. Utopias are not a modern dream!

But it was at the end of the podcast – the last comment – that gave me the most resonance – not a fist pump – I was driving – but a ‘Yes indeed!’. 

“One thing I learned from Snow Crash is that if we’re going to create a new world in a virtual space, it’s going to have the same problems as the real world, just amplified in a brand-new way. It doesn’t matter if our avatars are photorealistic 11 holograms or pixelated icons or fantastical creatures —they’re still us, and we can never escape ourselves.” 

As we enter the season of Lent, that phrase ‘we can never escape ourselves’ is a personal reality that describes human hubris and the internal personal struggles of life we all deal with – our own and those that others dump on us. This reality isn’t a modern phenomenon for all thinkers have desired to make ourselves and the world ‘better’. The Apostle Paul will describe us as being ‘in Adam’ and that life is marked by sin and death – for all of us at any age.

Humanity and the world look for solutions within ourselves and in this world – and let’s also be honest, that we – individually and globally – could bring hunger to an end and minimise the level and amount of fighting, corruption, poverty, and injustice very quickly if we all wanted this happen but everyone is afraid of ‘going alone’ or ‘losing out’ and so some problems are tackled, others are perpetuated, and new problems emerge. Why? Because our human nature – we can never escape ourselves – remains.

The message of Christianity calls out to this human truth and acknowledges it – we are stuck and dead in our sins – but also declares that God in Christ has rescued us from ourselves! Living by faith, trusting what God has declared and promised and says in each Divine Service in particular, the disciples of Jesus live with a new perspective of themselves and about the world – that they are forgiven and daily struggle with sin – hence the description of Christian living as ‘daily repentance’ – and because we are not zapped into Heaven at our Baptism but live here in this world of sin and death in bodies that still sin and will die, Christians recognise this reality and want to follow Jesus in this world, serving those around us with our technology, our politics, our science, our hands, our time all the while resisting the world’s siren call of ‘heaven on earth’ (it’s never going to happen) and pointing to Jesus as the only one who truly can rescue us from ourselves.

Welcome to the Lenten perspective – that God’s story that gives life, makes sense of reality, and helps us get out of bed each day is that human sin – our sin – is forgiven in Christ – look to his cross, and that the best life possible is following Jesus and being a blessing to those around us – look to his cross. And those around us are not just our neighbours or a person standing next to us on the bus but the person also on the other side of the world – that’s one thing our modern technology makes clear. To be a blessing to others takes our effort and energy and we struggle not to give up in despair – we pray and roll up our sleeves because Jesus doesn’t abandon us at any time and no matter the technology around us.