My friend the Episcopal priest and professor Father Fred Schmidt posted this illustrated quote from C.S. Lewis on Facebook the other day, and mentioned how fitting it is for mulling on in Lent. Friend Fred also gave Lewis his props for his amazing incisiveness and succinctness in everything he said and wrote.
Which inspired the random thoughts from yours truly that follow on this, Day 8 of the 40 days of Lent:
C.S. Lewis remains one of the most influential Christian thinkers of all time, but the man liked his strong drink, a lot, and liked nothing better than holding forth over beer with his Oxford students at his favorite watering hole.
Which made him my kind of teacher.
Sorry, but I couldn’t resist that cheap joke. A little levity now and again makes the observance of Lent and all that self-denial and self-sacrificial stuff that goes with it a little more, uh, comfortable to deal with.
For me, anyway.
Now one has to wonder if Lewis maybe had wayyyy too much grog when he suggested that Christianity is not about anybody’s comfort.
Like any other self-loving, self-respecting Christian, I hold fast to my Christian faith and practices for the comfort and strength and hope and endurance and all that that I get out of it because after all . . .
it’s all about me, about I, me, mine and my salvation and a ticket to heaven, with heaping amounts of Godly leftovers for others in my Christian walk, of course.
Look, I suppose that His Greatness Mr. Lewis may have had something in mind like what Paul was thinking when he told the Roman Christians: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God, for it is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12: 1)
Being a living sacrifice ain’t always easy, or by any means comfortable, which doesn’t mean, btw, that there’s not joy and self-fulfillment and a sense of well being that feels good to a Christian living much of a Christian life outside the comfort zone.
But Lent is a discomforting reminder that being a “living sacrifice” is about a lot about self-denial, self-sacrifice, and even some self-crucifixion that “the world” may look on as “foolish” and a “scandal” (words and concepts that Apostle Paul raised up as well) or even masochistic in some way. But I’ve often said and repeated here recently that Christianity endures because it doesn’t flinch in the face of discomfort or even suffering and death. This is because it recognizes the transformative and redemptive powers of love and love’s ultimate triumph over evil.
And we Christians recognize the transformative power of love on the cross, followed by the triumph of love in the resurrection. This is the language we Christians use and it’s a foreign language with foreign meanings that most in “the world” don’t or can’t or won’t ever get.
Speaking of me–I didn’t get it for a long time myself. But I’m glad I stuck with the journey to greater understanding. Christianity is nothing if not a sometimes uncomfortable and quite confounding journey.
I would argue that His Greatness Mr. Lewis–whose classic A Grief Observed is hard to read–so gut-wrenching is the suffering we can feel him processing in the amazing clarity of his words and message–was plenty sober when he suggested that Christianity is not a religion to be embraced for the comfort it gives to me and my two best friends, Mr. I and Mr. Me.
My friend Mr. Fred was right on, as usual–there’s a lot to think about in that incisive quote from the incisive and always succinct Mr. Lewis in this season of Lent, which–here’s the good news–foreshadows the season of the comfort and joy that ring and reverberate out of three simple words:
“He is risen!”