|By Eileen Gilmer, Associate Pastor |
It will soon be time for a new season to begin. But don’t go looking for a greeting card or suggested Amazon gift list. There are no movies on the Hallmark Channel romanticizing it. No, there is no hype surrounding Lent. However, millions of Christians, in many different denominations all around the world, observe this liturgical season of preparation. Lent begins Ash Wednesday, February 17 this year, lasting forty days (plus Sundays). When Lent has finished, the joy of Easter begins.
Lent doesn’t have the feel-good decorations or cookies that Advent and Christmas claim. You won’t find a seasonal scent dedicated to it at the Yankee Candle outlet. It doesn’t have the bold sounds of Easter’s Hallelujah Chorus. For many people, the only thing they can tell you about Lent is that it’s the time when you give up something: maybe chocolate, coffee, or shopping online. Those are some of the biggies. But I would argue this is the very reason why we should turn our eyes toward Lent, when what we really want to do is look away. Lent asks much of us.
For those who observe Lent, it can be a time of fasting. This is a nod to Jesus’ fasting when he spent forty days in the wilderness. Sopping wet from the baptismal waters of the Jordan River —with a divine voice still ringing in his ears, “You are my Son, the Beloved”—Jesus found himself both full of and led by the very Spirit of God. We read in the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) of Jesus’ time in the wilderness. He may have self-exiled from family and friends, but he was not alone. We read where he was tempted by evil; a scripture-quoting Satan tries three different times to tempt Jesus. It is after the final test that Matthew says the devil departed from Jesus “until an opportune time.” Very ominous. All of this took place just prior to the start of his ministry; it was a ministry that would not only change the world but also lead him to the cross.
It’s becoming more clear why Lent isn’t marketed as the feel-good season of the year, isn’t it? But before you are ready to spiritually sit out this time and set your eyes toward Easter, please let me ask a few questions. Have you ever found yourself in a wilderness? Was there ever a time you felt exhausted, alone, and even tempted? Sometimes our temptations come in the form of money, food, power, alcohol, drugs; the list is endless. There is good news, beloved. Jesus, our God-come-to-earth, has willingly walked into the wilderness, done battle with what is not of God, and can truly feel your pain. Jesus is now willing to walk into your wilderness today, in order to relieve whatever pain plagues you.
We walk through Lent, knowing what is on the other side: an empty tomb, a resurrected Lord, and the promise of a new life through Christ. Lent helps us get there. Our self-reflection of this season is not always easy, but as Christians we know who we are and whose we are. We are Easter people.