I knew in January something was wrong. Usually New Year’s is one of my favorite holidays because I love symbolic gestures for starting over and starting new. I know that nothing monumental really happens in the transfer of minutes from 11:59pm to 12:00am on January 1st. The grandfather clock doesn’t do a little dance or crack open a bottle of bubbly, it just shifts, with a sometimes audible tick and then settles into silence until 60 seonds later it ticks again.
Several weeks after New Year’s though, I began to sense that this was going to be a difficult year.
“No, my heart protested!” I will not have another 2005, not another 2008. I need another good year, 2010 so let’s try and be friends! But alas the feeling of darkness did not lift and within two weeks in February, my best friend lost her job, a friend got lymnphoma with a 40% survival stat, a friend who’s wedding I was to perform in March called and said her fiancé had called off their engagement, and my neighbors’ daughter died.
I cried a lot those two weeks. And then came the imposition of the Ashes.
Dear Lent, I wrote in my diary… No thank you. I don’t care for any this year. Life has already become really hard, I already have a lot to grieve, a lot of service to give, a lengthy wilderness to walk, and I don’t need the church to kill Jesus right now on top of it all.
Because we all kill Christ. It wasn’t just the Jews though they didn’t exactly help the matter. And it wasn’t just the Romans with their fear based God complexes.
It’s you and I every day. With every ugly word we utter to one another, with every jail we fail to visit, with every woman we size up and store in our memory for a later pleasure, every co-worker we step on to get ahead. We too participate in the Death of Christ. And Lent reminds us of that. With every sin we commit we cry out that Ceasar is King that Prosperity is our right, that Individualism is our God.
When in reality, from “ashes [we] have come, and to ashes [we] shall return.”
In reality, we’re each walking through a wilderness and we yearn for the promised land; we yearn for God’s Kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven.
So for Lent to force us to examine that Wilderness, to realize that God’s Kingdom is not yet and that it is our job to help usher it in. For Lent to force us to step out of the limelight of Blogs and Facebook and YouTube and American Idol and Survivor and admit that we are nothing without God and no photo tags or comments or like buttons or panel of judges can change that.
Only God can change that.
And sometimes to understand our infinite worth in Christ, we must understand our infinite worthlessness in the world.
Take a hike, Lent, I yelled to no one. I’m already sad. I already know life sucks. Death is already knocking on the doors of people I love all around me. I know life is fragile. I know life is unpredictable. I’m already crying and I don’t want to intentionally go into the darkness any further than I already am!
“Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for thou art with me.”
Except He isn’t with us. On Good Friday, we lose Jesus and we are utterly alone. God has truly died and death has surely won.
But it’s only after death that there can be true resurrection. Only with Good Friday’s Tortuous Death will there be Easter’s Glorious Resurrection.
And so every year as a church, worldwide, we journey into the Wilderness, into the night, into the mourning, hoping and praying that on Sunday light will come again.
It’s like a movie or a good book that we read over and over and each time, we nervously hope that the Bubba won’t die, that this time Batman saves the girl, that this time Celie doesn’t get pregnant, that this time Brute doesn’t plunge the sword, but we’ve seen these movies a hundred times and we know it always happens.
And it has to. You can’t have church that always sings about happiness and love and peace unless the church has known and felt the alternative. You can’t get the resurrection without the death. We can’t know God as fully human if he doesn’t die nor can we know him as fully God if he doesn’t resurrect.
We can’t have one without the other.
And so we have Lent.
Welcome Lent, come on in. There’s an empty seat at the table. While I wish it was Advent’s turn to dinner, I know you’re here to stay. And I’ll eat with you, don’t worry. But in three more weeks, I’ll have to bid you adieu because Easter’s gonna come rolling round and I want to make sure I’m ready. There’s a little chava on the table, help yourself, and tell me what news you’ve got to bring.
There’s gonna be a killin’? You don’t say. Well, I should have known, it happens every year.
Here for a while. But not here to stay…