We Are About Relationships
Every year when the season of Lent arrives, I feel unprepared. It always comes up sooner on the calendar than I expect. That feeling is especially strong this year because Easter is so early: March 27. Yes, we have already arrived at Ash Wednesday, and we are now entering this forty-day season of reflection, repentance, spiritual discipline and prayer. Ready or not.
As unprepared as I often feel, I am very grateful to the early church for creating this season of preparation. To give you a little history, Easter was the first holy day to be celebrated by the early Christians. Early in the movement, believers began to celebrate this day of Jesus’ resurrection because it was the truth of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection that changed the world. But within a few generations the church recognized a need for a season of preparation before commemorating the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. And so Lent began to take shape.
In our day and time we keep Lent in different ways. Some of us give up a habit or a thing for forty days as a practice of self-denial. Some of us take on a new practice of prayer or giving or serving. All of these things we do, not to make ourselves healthier or purer or to show God how strong we are, but to deepen our awareness of how often we put other things before God and how dependent we are on God’s grace each and every day. So, here’s one way to look at it: if you give up drinking Starbucks for six weeks, then every time you feel the urge for it, or every time it crosses your mind, you recognize how dependent you’ve become on that practice. And every time you have the urge can be a trigger to turn instead to prayer.
While each of us may be letting go of or taking on new practices this Lent, we are, as a community of faith, taking this journey together. For the next six weeks in worship, we’ll be doing a sermon series entitled, “Were You There?” that will take us through the events of Jesus’ last week in Jerusalem. The Gospel of Luke will be our guide and will take us first to the Temple in Jerusalem, where Jesus turned over the tables and cried out against the Temple leadership. From there we will be “flies on the wall,” visiting several locations throughout Jerusalem where the events of that week happened. To put it another way, we’ll be experiencing six different scenes from that last week of Jesus’ life.
We’ll go into the shadows with Judas. We’ll sit at the table in the upper room for the last supper. We’ll sit with the disciples in the garden of Gethsemane as they slept and watched Jesus pray. We’ll watch Jesus in the seats of power as he speaks truth and refuses to give in. And will walk on the via dolorosa as he makes his way to the cross.
I hope you will make it a priority to be in worship during this season if you can. I invite you to read along in Luke’s gospel, starting with chapter 19, the story of Jesus’ last week. I hope you’ll consider participating in a weekly Lenten Prayer Group in someone’s home. And most of all, I hope we can all find ways to keep the season of Lent, to make time to pray and reflect so that we can be ready to hear once again the life-changing news of Easter.