How many laws do you wish we would abolish in our church and our country? My list is long.I work with a passionate student who aspires to a career in public health whose future is unjustly held hostage by our broken immigration system. I seethe with frustration for her and for all those who face an unknown future because of arbitrary borders.I live in a city scarred by racism and segregation. I boil over with frustration—at systemic violence and at myself for how ingrained white supremacy is in my bones—as I grapple with unlearning and moving forward.I minister in a church that verbally affirms the dignity of all people, have a degree that qualifies me to preach and lead, and yet am prevented (in many places) from doing either. This frustration exhausts and depletes me as I long for something more.
Too often laws constrain, degrade, do violence. Don’t we want to burn it down and start over? How could Jesus fulfill anything so broken?
In our Gospel today, Jesus flips his listeners’ understanding of following laws on its head by challenging them to move beyond rigid observance of private faith toward sacred embodiment of messy life together. He undermines the idea that God’s Kin-dom is about celebration of individual prosperity and personal holiness. He reverses our conception of what it means to be ‘blessed’—not attributes to be obtained, but God’s preferential care for those cast aside.
Lent is a profession of faith through action—faith in a God who accompanies us into the depths of our frustration and despair just as God accompanied Jesus in his. May God turn our exhaustion into sacred frustration that sustains our work to move beyond unjust laws toward a church and world where all can flourish.
- How can your exhaustion be transformed into sacred frustration during this Lenten season?
- In what ways can your frustration enliven your work to build “church and world where all can flourish?”
Anna Ryan-Bender serves as director of campus ministry at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia. She holds a master of divinity from Boston College, where she focused her research and writing on questions for ministerial formation at the intersection of mission, anti-racism, and college campus ministry. Anna finds joy these days running in Philly, music ministry at her parish, and baking for friends, students, and coworkers.