As a pastor one of the great comforts in my work, as well as one of the great challenges, is the way this work is framed by the rhythm of the Christian Year. Each year we move through the story of redemption as we walk through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost and Ordinary time. The calendar of the Christian year is a comfort in that I have a framework from which to operate, a rhythm that moves to the beat of a familiar story of Divine redemption. But it is also a challenge in that this familiar story asks to be told in new ways. It’s never a matter of playing the tape of last year’s episode. But sometimes creativity gives way to the pressures of time and the pastor’s messages end up having more than a faint echo of familiarity with last year.
To be honest I must admit that there are seasons that are more and less enjoyable for me. And since I am being honest, I can tell you without hesitation that Lent is my favorite season. Now this is not simply because I am a notorious “glass half-empty” kind of guy. It isn’t because I love ashes and thorns and the dour gong of the liturgical proclamation: “You are dust and to dust you will return.” I love Lent because it invites us to consider the whole truth. Lent tells the whole story. It is a season that begins with the admission that we will die and ends with a celebration of resurrection. Lent gives us the opportunity to both acknowledge our limits as created beings and live in the confidence of that the love and grace of our God is without limits. We begin the season with the admission: “We are dust and to dust we will return,” and we end the season with the proclamation “Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.”
The journey of faith is always being lived out between these two poles. When we answer Jesus’ invitation to follow, we do so aware of both our deep need and his deep love. We walk carrying the burden of an awareness of all that we are not, and we walk in the hopeful confidence that death does not have the last word. The movement from Ash Wednesday through Holy Week and Easter is a practice that shows us how the journey of faith is both a burden and a blessing. It is filled with seasons of hard work and joyous surprises. It is not a trek that is easy and safe, but it is a journey that is exhilarating and good. It is a journey that travels through a wilderness of abandonment and temptation and a trial of betrayal and death. But it also takes us through the mystery of an empty tomb and the promise of steadfast love and eternal presence.
To sustain this journey with Jesus we must carry the seemingly contradictory realities of death and resurrection close to our hearts. The Lenten journey teaches us to do this. It helps us to discover and tap into those renewable spiritual resources that fuel the everyday steps we take as we walk with Jesus through this world. So as we anticipate embarking on another season of Lent, I invite you to be a part of a practice that will encourage and empower you on the Way of faith. Dedicate this season to growing in your awareness of the death that overcomes death itself and so becomes the portal to abundant and everlasting life.
Dave Rohrer 3/1/2016