Get Your Ash in Church!

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly,” John 10:10

Growing up, Lenten services always seemed to feel like being called into the Principal’s office. Indeed, each Wednesday seemingly followed the format of a typical visit to the Principal: I would be indicted for bad behavior, confess my sins, listen to lecture about the evils of my behavior, and sent away with the admonishment not to do it again. For me, the only difference between Lent and a visit to the Principal’s office was that I was encouraged to pick my own punishment by giving up a practice I enjoyed. To be honest I did not get much out of these Lenten services; I felt powerless to change. It’s not that I wanted to disrespect my parents, squabble with my siblings, or utter the occasional curse – I didn’t know how I could change. It seemed no matter what I did I always had something to be sorry for, something to repent of, and something that I should have done that I hadn’t.
Is this what Lent was meant to be?
I
don’t think so.

My own experience of the lenten season growing up in some ways mirrored the spiritual journey of Martin Luther, who struggled within current theological paradigms to find a loving and gracious God. Though Luther fasted, devoted himself to prayer and study, and even performed self-flagellation to clear his sins in the sight of God, nothing he would do would let his conscience rest. Yet, as Martin Luther investigated the Scripture, he found a loving, gracious, and merciful God in the person of Christ Jesus; Luther found peace in the Scriptural assertion that we are we are saved by God’s grace, through faith – by no merit of our own.

If we consider sin from the perspective of the Lutheran confessions, sin is not so much an individual action as it is a condition or sickness we are born into. While creating the world, and indeed each of us, God looked to all of the Creation and saw that it was very good. Yet, the unthinkable happened: the Creation of God became infected, corrupted, and broken by the influence of evil. We too are infected with the brokenness and sin of a fallen Creation from the very time of our birth. The sickness and damage of sin is so severe that only God alone can separate human nature from the corruption of sin.

I am sick with sin; no one can heal me but Jesus.

The reason I became so frustrated with the season of Lent growing up was that I was indeed powerless to change apart from the healing relationship with Christ Jesus. It is Jesus that is at work within each of us (Phil. 2:13.), who transforms us into his image (2 Cor. 3:18), and gives us new and abundant life (John 10:10.) It is Jesus who gives us the power to be re-oriented and reconciled towards both God and neighbor. I cannot do anything in my own power, but through Christ all things are possible (Matt. 19:26.) Christ has the power to save, to offer new and abundant life.

Keeping in this in mind, we enter the Lenten season in confidence of the new creation that Christ is continually working within us. We live in Easter hope, though we walk through the wilderness of this sin-sick world. So, as we continue in our Lenten journey towards the Cross, let us take a moment and pause as we open ourselves to the grace of God, and reflect upon where God may be calling us to grow.

Where is God inviting, calling, and enabling us to grow in our relationships with both God and neighbor?

What practices is God inviting us to experience and live into?

Where is God providing opportunities for us to live in the abundance of life?

Rather than a visit to the Principle’s office, the forty days of Lent serve as a time of reflection and introspection where we are invited to see the areas of our lives God wishes to breathe new life into. We may take on a Lenten discipline or practice so as to open ourselves more fully to the quiet voice of God within us, or give up a practice that may have distracted us in the past. For example, The House for All Sinners and Saints has come up with a wonderful tool for our Lenten journey, or your local church may supply prayer stations and labyrinths, or your Lenten discipline may be as simple as making a commitment to spend more time in prayer ore reading Scripture. However you decide to walk your Lenten journey, may you grow ever more aware of the blessings bestowed upon us by our loving and gracious God. Walk these forty days to the Cross towards new life and resurrection, for God came to us in Jesus to bring us life, and life abundantly.

Even during Lent.

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One response

  1. I love the idea of reflecting during lent even though we live with Easter hope. Great stuff!

    February 13, 2013 at 8:22 pm

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