Our church is trying something new this year. Actually, I suppose we are trying something rather old. We are observing and processing the season of Lent this year.
If you are part of a church that follows liturgy more closely, you’ve more than likely gone through the Lenten season, and it is nothing unusual. I grew up with Catholic friends that observed Lent, and to be honest, I observed with the mix of “how odd” and “how interesting.”
For those of us that are unfamiliar with Lent, it is the 40 days that lead up to Easter. Our Catholic friends will be aware that there are forms of worship that are offered, but one of the most common is a 40-day fast. In my experience, most observers would choose something common, certain foods or habits, and go without them for 40 days. I am not doing that this year, but there is tremendous value in fasting. Jesus taught that often when we take something away from ourselves (especially if we really want it) that we gain something deeper.
Our church’s observing of Lent is a little simpler than that. I have tried to explain it as a parallel to the season of advent, which covers the four Sundays before Christmas.
Seems to me getting ready for Christmas is pretty easy for most of us. The decorations, the music, the food, the excitement starts often before December, and our society really gets into it. Christmas is a big deal. Every year Christians will make some efforts to keep Christmas centered on Jesus, rather than getting lost in the busyness, the shopping, the cooking, the eating, the mayhem and family. After most Christmases, I will usually be reminding people not to put Jesus away with all the decorations.
For Christians, Easter should be at least as big of deal as Christmas. To my mind, Easter should be a bigger deal.
I often find for myself, for my church, that Easter kind of sneaks up on us, that we maybe give it a week, or a few days. To be fair, celebrating the Birth of Jesus is far more exciting than celebrating his death. But the resurrection should be cause for great celebration, for hope, renewal, goodwill and peace. If the resurrection is true, and Jesus really offers what He says He offers, then no amount of pain and suffering should be able to fully dim it! For those in the process of loss and grief, there is comfort and healing. For those who are enduring suffering and pain, there is an end and redeeming of it. For those who struggle with value, purpose, and meaning, there is an answer.
As we started into Lent, I was somewhat struck by how much of the Gospels are focused on the time that Jesus begins heading to Jerusalem, telling His disciples exactly why.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke right before the transfiguration, Jesus asks his disciples two questions: who do they say that I am, and who do you say that that I am? This happens about halfway through each gospel.
To my math, Lent and Easter make up a large amount of the accounts of Jesus. For Sunday services I picked a passage to focus on, that from the very beginning, Jesus invites his followers to take up their cross and follow Him (Mark 10). That on the way to Jerusalem, Jesus does most of his sharing, healing and teaching around a table (Luke 14), and that Scripture all points to who Jesus is and what he is doing (Matthew 22:15-23:12).
As Jesus was going to Jerusalem he kept inviting people to come, follow him. Heading into this Easter, the invitation still stands.
by Damon Ramer Bethany Christian Fellowship in Smith
March 21, 2023
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