Welcome to Lent - Supplement to the Reflections

Ash Wednesday 

Harrison Goodman
Hi, I’m Pastor Goodman, assistant to the dean of theology for this season of Lent. Lent is a penitential season focused on Christ and His passion, His suffering and death for you for the forgiveness of sins.

And so, I understand why it can kind of feel like a downer sometimes. Like, I’ve never actually had anybody pull me aside privately and vent their frustrations about Easter like, “Pastor, it’s just the resurrection. Why do all the hymns have to be SO joyful and uplifting?”

Lent, on the other hand...it’s cold and it’s dark. And midweek services in the middle of February really only get so cheerful. Not a year has gone by where at least one person hasn’t asked me privately, “Pastor, why do we have to be so depressing during Lent? The hymns are all so sad.”

And, I mean, if we’re going to be honest, even the strictly-liturgically-minded among us really kind of lean on the emotional side of things during Lent. You know, we dim the lights. We make sure that we are extra descriptive as we preach about the sufferings and death of Jesus. We even start out the season by putting ashes on your forehead and telling you you’re going to die.

And yeah, the hymns are pretty gloomy.

It feels even worse when we’re giving up things we love for Lent, and depriving ourselves of caffeine and chocolate -- which will only make you more grumpy. I understand the accusation about Lent. It is a somber season.

But here’s the thing. Nobody’s actually ever been saved by being depressed. Nobody has ever cried their way into the kingdom of God. And giving up coffee for 40 days won’t actually carry you to the resurrection by somehow cancelling out all the sins that you’ve committed the whole rest of the year.

Lent is not just about being sad. Lent is about being honest. Lent is a call to be honest about all the stuff we would otherwise try to ignore, or just become adjusted-to and decided to call “the new normal.” Lent is a confrontation with all of the things we would rather avoid. Lent dares to wrestle with a God who allows us to live in such a dark world that has been broken by sin. Lent makes us look at the last great enemy, death. Which we would rather not make eye contact with.

It speaks really bluntly about everything that we try to excuse and everything we have just grown numb to. It is a confrontation with everything we are up against in this world: sin, death, and the power of the devil. The season of Lent actually makes the church more than just a chance to escape from these enemies for an hour a week. It drags everything that you’re running from out into the open. And it talks about it.

That’s the wonderful thing about it. All of the piety of this season, the music, the liturgy, the fasting, they acknowledge the reality of the collapse of hope in this world. The destruction that is hiding in all of our secrets that we are so rightly ashamed of and the humanity that is suffering and dying in sin and is just spiraling downward...all of this stuff does sound depressing.

But Lent isn’t about YOU. It isn’t about what’s wrong. Lent is about Jesus. And more, Jesus for you. The season of Lent isn’t a chance to wallow in self-pity. It is about a God Whose love for you is so overpowering and reckless that He would follow you down into the pit, follow you down into your sin, your suffering, and your death, and confront these enemies for you.

This is where we find Christ. Who took flesh on Christmas, standing between you and everything that you are afraid to acknowledge. This Jesus collects every single hurt, every last sin, every sleepless night and all of the reason that things are broken, all of the sins, and He carries them for us. He is completely swallowed up by them. Completely overwhelmed by them. And that last great enemy, Death, would level Him.

Lent is about a God who would dare to die for us sinners, for you. Lent is about the Cross. Because something happened on that cross. All of those sins that we’re so ashamed of were hung on Jesus. All of the pains that leave us lying in the fetal position were borne by Him. All of the wrath of God, who hates seeing the things that we have done to ourselves and each other, well that was put on Christ.

He dies, so that this war that has surrounded us since we were brought into this mess of a world would finally be called “Finished.”

Your sins are forgiven you. Your pains are not your own. Your death is defeated. Your Jesus died for you upon a cross.

Because the truth is...if all we’ve done this Lent is make you sad, we have failed. Lent is about the Cross. It is a horrible, beautiful sight because it looks like real hope. Hope not in the world getting better but in Christ winning salvation even in the middle of it. Lent looks like love. Lent points to the cross of Christ where us sinners would find forgiveness, life, and salvation. Not just empathy towards the guy who suffered there. But real hope in a love that takes action and shape in a Jesus who actually saves us.

Welcome to Lent.

Catch Pastor Goodman on Fridays in Lent for a special devotional supplement to the Higher Things daily Reflections.

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