Lent

When the End is Near, Dig Deeper

When the End is Near, Dig Deeper

As a former English teacher, I love words and the power they have to shape our ability to understand the world around us. In literature, there is a literary device called dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is when someone outside the story, like the reader or audience member, knows something that the characters do not. For example, when you are watching a movie and, as the viewer, you know that the prankster with a cream pie is on the other side of the wall and the unsuspecting victim does not, that is dramatic irony.

I think about this idea of dramatic irony as we continue through the Lenten season and eventually into Holy Week. Every year we take time to remember and reflect during this season marked with time of holy devotion (Ash Wednesday), welcoming celebration (Palm Sunday), somber remembrance (Good Friday), and a return to joy (Resurrection Sunday).

Every year we know how the story will end; we know, despite the seemingly rollercoaster experiences of the Lenten season, that victory belongs to Jesus and to us, too.

To have that kind of foresight is a gift as it allows us to see our seemingly impossible-to-conquer situations for what they are: opportunities for God to show up and do what God was going to do anyway.

It is, however, also a reason for us to not fully engage in what the Lenten season has for us — the rote experience of knowing what's coming next can cause us to just go through the motions, waiting for the Resurrection. We already know that victory from the grave is sure to come — so we become lackadaisical in our process to seek God even more.

The prophet Isaiah speaks to the dramatic irony of the Resurrection: In chapter 53, Isaiah spends the first ten verses prophesying what would happen to Jesus. He speaks of Jesus' unpresuming presence and divine encounters with people, how he would be accused of crimes he did not commit and pay the ultimate price for them. But in verse 11, Isaiah's verb usage changes from past tense to future tense. Because of what we know would happen, we can look to the future of what will be:

Yet when his life is made an offering for sin,
    he will have many descendants.
He will enjoy a long life,
    and the Lord's good plan will prosper in his hands.
        Isaiah 53:11

Yes, we may know what is coming: God's plan for our lives is sure to be established in Jesus' victory over the grave.

Yes, we may be confident that when Easter comes that all will be well.

Yes, we already know what's happening in this story: dramatic irony allows for us to be privy to the best plot line in all human history.

And we are still called to live into the purpose of the Lenten season with as much devotion, wonder, and reverence as if we didn't know what was happening next.

As we near the end of Lent and enter the sacred time of Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday, I encourage us to continue towards Resurrection Sunday with a deeper commitment to reflect and connect with Jesus and the beloved community — even if we know how the story ends.


Alisha L. Gordon, M.Div., is the executive for spiritual growth for the United Methodist Women national office.

Posted or updated: 3/31/2017 12:00:00 AM
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