Written by Gradye Parsons
Each month the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Moderator or Vice Moderator of the 220th General Assembly write a column of general interest for the church-at-large.
Upon seeing a Facebook photo of me holding my newborn grandson, one of my friends wrote that I looked “smitten.” To which I replied, “I am.”
Smitten is a word you do not hear used much anymore. The fact that its root is the verb “smite” makes it all the more interesting.
In the King James Version of the Bible, people get threatened all the time with being smitten. Or they get God’s protection from being smitten. We are told that if a person smites us on one cheek we are to turn the other cheek for more. In my years in Appalachia there were churches where the Spirit regularly smote people.
The word smite has a background of afflicting or affecting. You can be smitten with the plague or smitten with love. In the case of my grandson, it was surely the latter.
Which—believe it or not—brings me to Lent. Has Lent afflicted you or affected you? The old tradition of giving up meat means that every fast-food restaurant is promoting its special fish sandwich. People of faith try to build some spiritual muscle by afflicting themselves with the denial of some beloved treat. Watching Downton Abbey, of course, does not apply.
The dictionary links Lent with the words meager and somber. That does sound like affliction. Is it possible that another form of spiritual discipline is required? Can we be affected by a new sense of love and joy at the gift of Jesus Christ? Can we not also focus on where God is calling our hearts to be more affected with a passion for the gospel? Can we sing, “What Wondrous Love Is This?” and see our own story of faith?
At the end of March, it will be Easter. Lent will have come full term. Our congregations will celebrate Palm Sunday, observe Maundy Thursday, solemnize Good Friday, and pack the house on Easter morning. It is my prayer for you and for my grandson that you may be completely, endlessly smitten. Smitten by the great Good News that you are a child of God loved in abundance.
And yes. I am still smitten.