So hopefully a week after the fact everyone has been perfect in holding off whatever you picked to give up these forty-some days: whether that be chocolate or coffee or whatever else. We may not like this whole season of Lent. We automatically associate it with longer nights and colder temperatures. It's just so dark. It doesn't have much joy to it at all. But we do appreciate that if offers us a little bit more of responsibility, a chance to take more personal control of our faith.
If we can somehow continue to hold off on the candy or the pop the next four-and-a-half weeks we will have moved so incredibly close to this Almighty God. If we could somehow withstand our relentless temptation, instill a sense of self-discipline that the world is so lacking today, God would be so tremendously proud of us. And so we have made Lent into an individual enterprise of sorts, trying to somehow convince God we are really better than how we act the other three hundred-some days of the year.
Except this season isn't meant for personal achievement, it's not about one person's journey to improve their standing before Almighty God. The only part about Lent that comes close to that number one is One God, One Lord, One Love, One Cross, One Death, One Resurrection, One empty tomb. And that One God carried out the sacrificial journey that actually ends up saving us, not the one we're going to try to continue to pull off this next month.
Now don't get me wrong: there's nothing terrible about a little self-discipline, a little self-control. But that's usually what it turns out to be: a little bit. We splurge the night before Ash Wednesday on all the sugar and sweets we can possibly get our hands on and hope it lasts us all the way until that first Sunday in April this year before we can stuff our face all day long with family and friends. In the in-between time we fast from those indulgences, but it's usually to make us feel better about ourselves: to improve our self-image, to show how much we're truly capable of, even if it's only for a little bit of time in the grand scheme of our life.
However, Lent is not about a little bit of anything. This is about a monumental compassion. This season is about a holy sacrifice of reputation, of honor, of bodily health, of life itself for people who didn't even believe its eternal worth. This is about an almighty, omnipotent, all-powerful God with the tenderest of hearts for all humanity.
So maybe beyond the giving up of certain foods or drinks, we should start making some additions, even if it's a week late. Let's also give up on the idea that this season is about us, about how much we love God that we're willing to sacrifice whatever we come up with for the divine because I have a feeling God's going to love us just the same no matter what.
Then, keeping that in mind, let's give up on the idea that there are any conditions on this divine love for us. Let's give up the notion that if we behave a certain way, or spend more time in prayer, or read the Bible more, or do more good works to help our neighbors in the community, that God's love is going to exponentially increase for us; because that kind of love is by no means based on a sum of an equation of hours spent in service. It all flows from a cross: nothing more, nothing less. That doesn't mean we shouldn't pray more or read Scripture more or serve our community more, but we do so out of our own love for God, out of our own desire to know how this still-living God is active in the world, out of a passion to improve the places where we live. But none of it trumps the act of what our Lord and Savior did for all of us on Calvary.
And so maybe we should give up on the idea that that cross was limited to a select few. Let's keep that in mind as we drive on snowy roads during the weeks ahead, and we unleash a chorus of not-so Christian exclamations against all the drivers who aren't driving exactly how we are, the right way, of course: we might just have to cave into the possibility that God loves them just as much as God loves us.
And let's give up the idea that somehow these winter months with all the snow, and wind and sleet and ice make things so bleak. Instead, let's cave into the possibility that there can be as much light inside the walls of schools with students standing up against bullying, or inside hospitals with siblings remaining by the bedside of their loved one, or inside homes with families spending time together on winter nights; there will be more light in those very places than all the ultraviolet rays the sun in the sky can beam out on this earth.
And so maybe we should give up on our attitudes, on our cynicism against this ugly world, on our cold-hearted belief that it can't be saved. Maybe we just need to cave into the reality that God knew it was all possible: that humans with more and more advancements in technology and all-around power could end up harming more life than saving it; and yet God still came to us through Jesus Christ, and our Lord and Messiah still went up a hill with a cross on His shoulders, knowing full well He would be rejected, and despised, and manipulated to justify sinful actions for thousands of years to come. And yet He still hung there to die for
all of humanity.
Let's give up the idea that we can somehow limit God's compassion. Let's give up the notion this world cannot be saved. Let's give up believing there's no hope, because tonight we will be reminded yet again that there is hope even out of ashes, even out of death itself. Tonight we will be reminded of that One God, One Lord, One Love, One Cross, One Death, One Resurrection, One empty tomb that will raise us up from the dust of this earth into the Kingdom of eternal peace and joy. And so for that journey we take on these forty days through the indescribable grace of the God Who would do it all over again for all of us and the entire broken world, for that most sacred journey we give thanks to our God of everlasting life indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Nan Dehnke, Pastor
Office: Mon - Thu: 9 a.m. - Noon