A Difficult Ideal (March Newsletter)

         A century ago, English writer G.K. Chesterton famously observed that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”

        While Chesterton’s words may sound slightly tongue in cheek, they are, to quote Simeon’s warning to a starry-eyed Mary, a sword to pierce the soul. (Luke 2:35) Chesterton spoke a truth that continues to challenge Christians to reflect on the ways in which we are less faithful to Jesus than we are to our own comfort and convenience. And we all struggle to live as faithful disciples. Who wouldn’t? Jesus is on record saying revolutionary things like: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor…then come, follow me.” And “Whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

         As daunting as those words are, they’re some of the most vital and life-giving things Jesus says. They define discipleship as a life of gratitude, generosity, service, and trust. How do we even begin such a journey?

         The season of Lent is a yearly call to practice some new ritual of discipleship. The intent of these forty days preceding Easter is to recognize that, indeed, we have found the “Christian ideal difficult,” and we have “left [it] untried.” More than all the petty faults and failings we can name and count, that is the sin we confess during Lent.

         If you are considering a Lenten discipline, I encourage you to think beyond the simplistic avoidance of some trifling luxury you’re better off without, anyway. Pray about the difficult ideal of Christian discipleship, and instead of giving something up, take on some new layer of awareness and service. Whatever time, energy, inconvenience, or discomfort it requires of you will be what you “give up.” That will be your Good Friday surrender. It will reveal to you something new of God in the world and of the God-given gifts within you, and it will create in you to an expanded capacity to experience and share Resurrection joy.

        May your Lenten disciplines be guided by a deep and prayerful desire to discover and engage the holiness in your body, mind, and spirit, and the holiness in the Creation around you, just as Jesus fully gave himself to his holiness and his potential when he overcame his own temptations in the wilderness, and not only tried but faithfully walked the difficult path shown to him by God.

         Peace,

                  Allen

2 thoughts on “A Difficult Ideal (March Newsletter)

  1. Brilliant, as always.

    *Matt Matthews* First Presbyterian Church Champaign A (cool) congregation of the PC(USA) Church: 217.356.7238; Cell: 864.386.9138 *WWW.MattMatthewsCreative.Com *

    On Wed, Feb 26, 2020 at 9:03 AM Jabbok in the Foothills wrote:

    > allenhuff posted: ” A century ago, English writer G.K. Chesterton > famously observed that “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found > wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.” While > Chesterton’s words may sound slightly tongue in cheek, th” >

    Like

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