Lent Devotions: Do what you can


Editor’s note: This Lent season, Bread Blog is running a series of devotionals written by staff, alumni, and friends of the San Francisco Theological Seminary, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).

By Rev. Scott Clark

John 19:38-42

About a month ago, I was working on a sermon and struggling with a text that included Jesus’ exhortation, “Therefore, be perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)  Mercifully, I came across a scholar who read the text as an invitation to get started in the way of Jesus, explaining it something like this: “If you can do everything that Jesus has taught, then by all means do it.  But if you can’t do all of that right now, then do what you can.”

In the hours after Good Friday, in the liminal space between crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus’ friends do just that: They do what they can.  Joseph of Arimathea goes to Pilate and retrieves Jesus’ body.  Nicodemus – who came to Jesus in the night asking questions – prepares myrrh and aloes.  Together, they wrap the body in strips of clean linen cloth.  Joseph offers his own tomb as a resting place.  They carry the body there.  The women, Mary and Mary, watch as they lay the body in the tomb.  And after Sabbath, they too gather spices, and they head back to the tomb in the deep dawn of the third day. In the space between loss and resurrection, they do what they can.

Maybe you have experienced something like that. When we don’t really know what to do, we do what we can.

In the South, we make casseroles.  We make sure that the family doesn’t forget to eat.  We bring the trash cans up from the curb.  We offer to pick the kids up at school.  We go to the visitation.  We pay our respects.  We write a note.  We stay up, talking way, way, way into the night, remembering.  In the space between loss and resurrection, when we don’t really know what to do, we do what we can.

On this Holy Saturday – in the space between Good Friday and Easter – the invitation is quiet and plain:  Let’s do what we can.

Tell the people you love that you love them.

Be kind to a stranger.

Go visit someone who can’t leave their home very often.

Hold the door.

Say thank you.

Sit with someone who is sad.

Tell someone who needs to hear it that they are fabulous, that their life matters to you and to many, that they bless this world.

That’s what we do, even when we don’t know what to do.  We do what we can.

And we hope that in the practice of tender mercy, together, and with God’s grace, we can find our way to life.

Rev. Scott Clark is a chaplain and associate dean of students at the San Francisco Theological Seminary

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