By Pastor Wes Poole
For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life. – NRSV
We often refer to the season of Lent, rightly so, as a journey. Indeed, we commonly lift up the reality that in any given matter, it is generally the journey, not the “destination” itself, that provides us with the most powerful of life’s lessons. I find this particularly valuable during Lent. As this season is one where we make extra effort to ask ourselves the hard questions like, “What is lacking in myself that I can try to make better?” or “How may I make myself a more pleasing offering to God?” or “How can live into Jesus’ command to love God and neighbor?” These are all great questions, and appropriate to any time of year, but they are key to observing a faithful Lent. Another important point that I think must be made here is that our individual journeys are all different and cannot be applied across the board to everyone. To wit, I went looking for what other folks had to say about their respective journeys. In my search, I came across an account of a woman who had become a Christian later in her adult life. Like many, she was experiencing a troubling void in her life and found comfort and purpose in the life and teachings of Jesus. It wasn’t, however, the end of her story or any sort of “magic bullet”. Here is what she had to say:
“When I became a Christian, I thought all my problems would go away, and God would take care of everything with a snap of His fingers. The truth is, my life fell apart within weeks of being baptized. Suffice it to say, accepting Jesus and asking Him to be Lord of my life didn’t obliterate the garbage I’d pressed down in the compactor of my heart.”
It’s a tough lesson to learn, but nonetheless quite true. There is never one, solitary event or epiphany or moment of clarity that “fixes” us. The peaks and valleys of life are always there. What first struck me about her story was the scripture she was using to help her tell it. She used the above verse from Ephesians, but from the New Living Translation. The NLT renders the verse thusly, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” [emphasis added]
God’s masterpiece…what a lovely translation and sentiment! Lent can indeed be a dark time for us. Regardless of its value, it’s hard to acknowledge our imperfections. It’s hard to admit to our failings. What our sister’s story above reminds us is that God first looked on us, and the rest of His Creation, and proclaimed it all “good”! Not perfect. Not without room for improvement, but still good! That is truly Good News and something we must try to remember during Lent. Are we sinful and imperfect beings? Yea, verily! But we are far from irredeemable! Indeed, Christ redeemed us on the cross and changed the very nature of the human experience. That, by definition, gives value to our journey. We are no longer hopeless sinners, despairing of ever being worthy of a perfect God. We are beloved Children of God, redeemed by Jesus himself! The significance of the journey is analogous to the curator of art, working tirelessly to restore or maintain a great painting or sculpture…God’s masterpiece! Likewise, we require maintenance. God values us more than we can actually grasp. The great Spring Cleaning that is Lent provides us with the opportunity to acknowledge God’s handiwork; to maintain the masterpiece. May we use the time wisely, and emerge on the Easter side of the journey renewed and refreshed for the year ahead.
Let us pray…
God of all goodness and beauty, help us to remember as we work to make ourselves a more pleasing offering to you, that you love us through our sin and failings. You provide us with opportunities to better ourselves and to be better ministers in your kingdom. During this season of Lent, we ask for a fresh outpouring of your Spirit and a renewed zeal to help one another through the journey. We ask these things in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe. I hope to see you soon!
Pastor Wes Poole †