For Lent I am going to reflect on and daily blog about the second reading from the Daily Office (i.e. the list of scriptural readings from the Book of Alternative Services for the Anglican Church of Canada for Morning and Evening Prayer. Here’s today’s reading:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—
‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
or lose heart when you are punished by him;
for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves,
and chastises every child whom he accepts.’
Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
Lent is about discipline. In ordinary English the primary meaning of that term is “punishment” or “chastisement”, and that is clearly referenced in the reading. Inappropriate action has to be challenged by its consequences, and every parent knows something about that. But discipline means much more.
The root of discipline is a Latin word for “teaching” or “instruction”. If one is taught by a master one is a disciple, and if one studies a particular field in school or university one is receiving instruction in an academic discipline. Learning is hard work for most of us, and so it requires some discipline – study habits, learning methods of research, solving problems, interacting with those who hold different views, sheer brute memory work, making mistakes, writing essays, making oral presentations, et cetera.
In Lent we who follow Jesus try to be teachable. We slough off unhelpful old habits and try to pick up new ones – not just for for forty days, but hopefully for life. Our instructor in prayer is the Holy Spirit in prayer, in theology it is the Word of God as mediated by scripture, and we hear the voice of Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger. It’s a time to be challenged, to make more with less, and to quiet one’s soul. It is a time to “pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”