~Purple for Lent~
“And [the Roman soldiers] clothed Jesus in a purple cloak;
and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him.
And they began saluting him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’”
Dear Members and Friends,
The holy season of Lent begins with a special service of Ash Wednesday at 7:00 p.m. on February 22. The cloths at the front of the church will be changed to a rich purple, which is beautiful, but it can seem…odd. I mean, purple? In our culture you can use gray, green, brown or blue almost anywhere and anytime. Both white and black can seem formal, but they’re versatile and not off limits. You can also use yellow, red, pink or orange for a little extra feeling. But purple is an outlier. You never see a purple street sign. You rarely see a purple car or house. I don’t think I’ve ever owned a purple shirt. Some self-confident soul could get away with purple pants, but I could not. Mark tells us that Pilate had Jesus dressed in purple. This was presumably to mock his poverty, since Jesus was called “the King of the Jews,” and only the rich could afford clothes dyed purple. (Oddly, Matthew says the color was red, but when in doubt, I tend to trust Mark!) Purple had always been a symbol for royalty, wisdom, and power. It has since become a symbol for Jesus’s reign, but also a symbol for his suffering—and a symbol for all suffering: his, yours, theirs, mine. And so, purple has a bit of an identity crisis. Is it magnificent or sad, majestic or mournful?
Lent is a little bit of both, I guess. Traditionally, it’s been a time to grieve our sins and to strive to overcome them. But sin does not mean, “I’m evil and need to be punished.” Sin means, “I’m broken and need to be made whole.” Perhaps the best way to overcome brokenness and pain is not to focus on it, but instead to focus on all that is whole and right, in an effort to enhance those things. (A “strengths-based approach” to penitence?) Here’s a bit of guidance as we journey into Lent.
Find something purple, and put that purple object in your daily field of vision to remind you that this is a special season. Then follow these rules, below. I’m going to call these eight commandments “The Purple Code”:
1) This Lenten season, whenever you feel burned out, read—something inspiring.
2) This Lenten season, whenever you feel sad, exercise.
3) This Lenten season, whenever you feel angry, listen to music.
4) This Lenten season, whenever you feel anxious, meditate or pray.
5) This Lenten season, whenever you feel lazy or listless, reduce screen time!
6) This Lenten season, whenever you overthink things, write.
7) This Lenten season, whenever you feel tired, go ahead and take a nap.
8) This Lenten season, whenever you feel stressed, go for a walk.
Of course, the whole purpose of changing our behaviors in Lent is so that we can build better habits that will remain with us throughout a lifetime. The church can only endure about six weeks of purple cloths per year. But we could happily spend the rest of our days with the Purple Code. By the way! “Lentflix” potlucks and movie discussion nights will be back this Lent, beginning in March! If you know of a thought-provoking movie that probes some important questions in life, we’re open to suggestions.
In Christ’s Peace,