For 3 March 2020: First Tuesday in Lent
Updated: Mar 18, 2020
For Tuesday, 3 March 2020: First Tuesday of Lent
A few weeks ago, I traveled to a town tucked away in the Illinois prairie along the banks of the Fox River. The fields were desolate, covered in snow. It just looked cold and lonely out in those fields. When I returned home, I found the fire pit and a lonely chair desolate in my backyard covered in that same snow. A place which had been welcoming and inviting just weeks ago became the very last place anyone would want to be.
Lent is the last place most of us want to be, too. Winter is nearly over, thankfully, and Spring has begun to show signs of awakening. The days are getting longer; the sun is beginning to shine just a bit warmer; feathered friends are on the wing beginning their migration northward. This is not a time of year in which I want to engage in self-denial, self-examination, and the disciplines of Lent. I want to join in the exuberance of Spring which is about to burst. I don’t want to spend forty days with that nagging desolation and loneliness which Lent can produce. The exuberance of Spring is far more inviting.
Yet, what better time to stop for a bit and to rethink our perspectives and plans. There is no better time, in fact. Before all the exuberant new life is upon us, what better time to pause and ask ourselves, “What will I do better?” It’s a surprising question when put in that framework. Lent can be a time of desolation and loneliness if that’s how we look at it. That perspective on Lent begins with, and emphasizes asking ourselves the questions like, “What have I done wrong?” or “How have I sinned?” If that’s all Lent is, I’d rather stick with Spring. I think there is a better way.
The better way is the journey from acknowledging our falling short; we know we’ve fallen short of the mark. We don’t need forty days to remind ourselves about those events and circumstances. The better way is a journey. The forty-day journey is from how Paul puts it in Romans: We begin with “…since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God …” (Romans 3:23 NRSV) and our journey is to “… now [there is] no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 NRSV). In other words, the Lenten journey is a journey into the assuring love of God in Jesus with the Spirit reminding us over and over that, we are beloved of God, no matter who we are.
As Spring begins to show signs of bursting out, it is a time to stop and plan: plan for a garden, plan for good weather, plan for living out our faith. Ask yourself: How will I be a better spouse? Parent? Sibling? Child? Where can I make a difference in my community? Where am I willing to invest my time, talents, and resources to make my community a better place? My country a better place? My family a better family? My congregation a stronger congregation? Lent observed only in remorse cannot lead to new life. However, Lent observed as a time of acknowledging our need for a fresh start and our being offered the opportunity for a fresh start is life-renewing, life-transforming, and an opportunity for New Life in Christ.
I think it’s normal to focus on the exuberance of Spring. It’s certainly far easier, but it isn’t nearly as rewarding as a Lent spent embracing the assuring love of God which promises us, “Because I live, you also will live” (John 14:19 NRSV) and seals that promise with an empty tomb on Easter.
Here's the link to today's podcast version: