I’m not the world’s best blogger, but here’s the entry I wrote for Randy Evans, a Christian missionary who’s putting together a Lenten devotional for street people in Wilmington, North Carolina. The other contributors (Richard Rohr, Shane Claiborne, Sarah Heath, Stanley Hauerwas, Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Doug Pagitt, etc.) are all prominent believers, so I had to double check to see if Randy invited me to contribute by mistake. He wrote back, “Absolutely no mistake. I believe you have something to say. People experiencing poverty need to know they deserve self-respect, self-worth, and dignity….you are a Conveyor of Hope!” Let’s hope so. This is an especially hard time of year to be homeless.
Lenten Journal Entry for Randy Evans (Bart Campolo)
I grew up going to church, but I never really understood Lent, let alone the strange Biblical myth behind it, about Jesus spending 40 days in the desert facing the temptations of Satan to sell out the rest of humanity. What I did understand was that each of us kids was supposed to give up something we enjoyed – like candy, soda or television – for the same length of time, as a way of honoring Jesus’ sacrifice, and that to me the whole exercise seemed utterly lame. After all, none of us was setting aside food and shelter like Jesus, let alone preparing to give our lives for others. It wasn’t until I stopped believing in the literal truth of the story – and the reality of God – that I finally recognized the great value of teaching a youngster how to curb his or her craving for luxury for the sake of something – or someone – more important.
Perhaps today you have something precious – a few dollars, a moment of patience, some kind words, a warm place to stay – that you’d normally keep for yourself, but you know someone who really needs you to share it with them. You don’t have to, of course, but if you do you’ll be rejoining the greatest human tradition of all: Sacrifice for the sake of another. There is great dignity in such a choice.
Then again, perhaps today you are the one in need, and your hope hangs on whether or not someone else has learned the lesson of Lent, which is that each of us is entirely worthy of someone else’s sacrifice. If that is the case, and you are suffering because those with more won’t stop indulging themselves, there is great dignity too in reminding yourself that that – and not you – is the real problem, and in vowing not to make the same mistake when your situation improves.