Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why Not Just Skip to Easter? -- Part One

Condensed from Romans 6

Now if we died with Christ we will also live with Him. Death no longer rules over Him. He died to sin once for all. He lives to God. You too, consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Do not let sin reign in your mortal body. Do not offer any parts of it to sin as weapons for unrighteousness. But as those who are alive from the dead, offer yourselves to God.

Having been liberated from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. I am using a human analogy because of [your weakness]. For just as you offered your bodies as slaves to moral impurity and lawlessness, so now offer them as slaves to righteousness which results in sanctification —and the end is eternal life! For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Many churches of the Protestant variety, particularly of the "evangelical camp," do not participate in Lent. Lent was something for Catholics (and thus the unspoken assumption was that it was anathema for me). A formerly-Catholic parishioner of mine once said, "It was a relief to leave it behind. After all, it was all about Jesus hanging on the cross and the broken body and the blood anyway, all the time, every Sunday. By the time Lent was over I just couldn't stand it any more, and then it was one day of relief and celebration and then back to the cross."

So it seems, perhaps partly to avoid what was perceived as an undue emphasis on the "bad news" and not enough on the "good news" of the season, we left the sorrow and contemplation of Lent behind. I was over forty years of age before I participated in a Good Friday service--and I am one of those who "cut my teeth on a pew" so it wasn't for lack of being in church.

We are more comfortable with the joy and celebration of Easter than with the darkness that preceded it, and I think that is a good thing. I do not want to dwell on sin and struggle--I want to "live to God" as Paul tells us. But this time is a chance to remember the dark before the dawn, the bondage before the freedom, the loss before the gain. The Orthodox Church calls this time "the season of Bright Sadness," because it is a time of both celebration and mourning.

Jesus' work is done; he's in Heaven. The sting of death has been conquered, and Jesus Christ is Victor. So why should we think about the darkness at all?

There are more reasons than I have time for in this post. Here is just one. Sometimes we must come face to face with ourselves in order to truly see the glory of God's grace.

Jesus cautioned us to count the cost, to die to ourselves, to love our enemies, pray for those who do not treat us right, to be light in a dark world. Loving our enemies doesn't come naturally. Swimming against the current of a culture increasingly comfortable with wickedness doesn't either. If we genuinely want to do this, it is only possible through God's grace. To show genuine mercy and compassion without being smug or self righteous means we do well to take heed to ourselves and our own weakness (being strengthened day by day yes--glory be to God--but not yet perfected).

More about this tomorrow.


Jeni said...

Learn something new everyday don't we? I thought all Christian churches observed Lent! What a surprise to find that isn't true. I suppose, being a Lutheran and we do observe Lent, I am accustomed to the aspect of Lent as being a time of penance of a sort, just as Advent is a time joy and excitement, with the anticipation of the coming of Christ at Christmas.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Here's something else for you Jeni. :-) Many churches don't celebrate Advent either. I was also about 40 before seeing an Advent wreath in church. But I love the whole Advent custom and anticipation--never missed it when I was pastoring at Jubilee, and I think the congregation there came to love it as well.