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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "in/of"

It's not a very complicated or complex word.

Just a simple preposition expressing the location of something in time or space, usually surrounded or enclosed by something else.

"They met in April 1967." (Surrounded by the events of that year.)

"She lives in Paris." (Surrounded by that city.)

"He dressed in a suit." (Enclosed in his clothes.)

"Of," however, expresses the relationship between a part and a whole... It implies a relationship or connection or belonging.

The University of South Carolina (the state university).

Pastor of Augusta Heights (the church's pastor).

This meaning is most obvious (and disturbing) in the dystopian society of The Handmaid's Tale. Women don't even have their own names, but are known by "Of + their male commander's name" (i.e. Ofwarren, Offred, Ofglen), because they belong to the men.

Offred planning to smash the patriarchy

Through the Christian year, we usually refer to the Second Sunday of Easter, or the Fourth Sunday of Epiphany, or the Third Sunday of Advent. We refer to Sundays during Lent, however, as occurring in Lent, but not being of Lent. That's because Sunday's are always a celebration of the resurrection, and Lent is a season of self-examination and self-denial, confession and discipline; a season when we confront our mortality and our failings.

Lent is an important time for us to acknowledge our sins and shortcomings, to admit we are human (i.e. not God), and to recommit ourselves to the demanding way of Christ...the way of suffering love that ultimately led him to the cross. And while self-examination and self-denial and confession and discipline are good for us to practice, they do not define us. Because, ultimately, we are people of resurrection.

Much of our lives are Lenten, though. We are too often in the ashes of grief and sorrow, in the dirt of our wrongdoings and shortcomings, in the deserts of loneliness and despair, in the pain and suffering we all experience.

And yet we are only ever in Lent...not of it.

We are children of God - broken and beloved.

We are the body of Christ - imperfect and empowered.

We are followers of Jesus - who was crucified and resurrected, that we might have the hope of renewal and new life, too, even in difficult and despairing times.

As Guy Sayles puts it in his brief but beautiful reflection,

Just as a few crocuses push through the dirt and bloom before Easter, beauty breaks through the dust of Lent, no matter how long it lasts. Laughter rises from the ashes of lament. A broken life can be an abundant life.
I’ve discovered, as a cherished hymn text puts it, “a joy that seekest me through pain”; it doesn’t wait until the pain has passed. Limitations bring frustration; they also sharpen focus. A slower pace, as impatient as I often am with it, affords opportunities for greater attentiveness. The surer I am about my death, the gladder I am for the gift of life. As I lose things I once thought essential to my identity, I learn more about who I really am. Grace makes it possible to be empty and fully alive.
This long Lent teaches me that it’s really true that those who lose their lives with and for Jesus find them. I’m grateful that I’m not of Lent, just in it.

Even in this season of Lent, even when our entire lives seem to be difficult and despairing, may we remember this truth: we are children of God, the body of Christ, followers of Jesus, people of resurrection.

And perhaps that truth will carry us along our journey with Jesus to the cross, and maybe even to the new life beyond it.


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