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Introduction to Lent, 1968
O. P. Kretzmann

We have come now to the first Lenten season in the final third of the 20th century… From my small ivory tower it looks different from any Lenten season I have known… different in both degree and kind…

Perhaps the most important factor in this Lenten season is the appearance of the post-modern mind… still some what formless… Its nature and structure are momentarily unclear… Its basic characteristics, however, are very evident… It seems to be growing also on our American campuses and it manifests itself not only in the humanities and the social sciences…

It is a disillusioned mind… The slogans of the 20th century — freedom, democracy, success, security — all these have been emphasized out of proportion to their real meaning and value…

As a consequence, the post-modern mind believes that the 18th century saw us lose faith in God… In the 19th century we lost our faith in man… In the 20th century we lost our faith in things…

Therefore, the world as it now is… our nihilism… our frantic hedonism… from the Hippies to Playboy… to sensual pleasure seekers… And we end up with our Sartre, our Camus, and our Beckett…

All this, of course, has left indelible marks on the church… Slowly but surely it is moving away from the past… living under the sign of the conflict and bitterness and hate… the sound of its voice lost in the winds of the worlds confusion and pain…

Once more we heard the forgotten watchword of Martin Luther, ecclesia semper reformanda… the sign of repentance and renewal has become a real dynamic… a passionate willingness to march boldly into a new age which seems in the divine pity to be bursting round about us once more…

This means that we move into the age before us with the ultimate theology of humility… the age of space exploration… the explosion of population and know ledge… our monstrous machines… the ambiguities of history… the birthpains of Asia and Africa… all these now come tumbling and stumbling about us upon whom Lent, 1968, has come…

Once more this blessed season we can stand erect and unafraid, knowing that at the end of every theological road there stands Jesus Christ in the continuing fullness of His power and the plentitude of His grace…

Certainly this should be said by the Church during Lent, 1968, bringing a new awareness of the Christological interpretation of man and history and life… the divine and incredible invasion of God in the Incar nation of His Son… this lifting of the Cross… this hope beyond all hope… to which we also must finally continue to give all might, majesty, dominion and power…

Certainly it will be more difficult than ever before to see the true meaning of Lent in the last third of the 20th century… This is especially true of our younger generation… Their problem, of course, is indifference… Some of the post-modern world really does not care much one way or the other about the thorn-crowned figure on the Cross… They offer lip service by coming to church more often during Lent… a little haunted by the gallant figure of the lonely sufferer… Now in 1968 there is a vague, uneasy feeling in the post-modern mind that He knew something which life and time have taken away… a relentless strength… a far hope… a continuing dream of righteousness and goodness and love which we have never really known…

And then there is also the post-modern fool… He no longer says: There is no God.… He now thinks and writes and speaks: I am against God. I want to take part in His killing just as my friends and contemporaries did 2000 years ago. I must admit that I am a little frightened by our world and by the notion that this whole business about Gods coming into my planet may be true, that this torn and broken figure is really God — and worst of all for me, that by earning the power to save He has also earned the power to judge.

And so — we must devote a part of this Lenten season in 1968 to saying something about the long, slow, terrible way God has of coming back in history and life to judge what He could not save… This our generation must know if it is to remember now the hour of its visitation… He has a strange way of coming back…

Now that He has the H-bomb under His dominion, Lent 1968, in an excellent and ultimate time to listen for the coming of His feet…

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