By Pastor Wes Poole
“[Remember] you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – NRSV
Gloomy or depressing words? Perhaps. Yet those are among the first words we usually hear as the season of Lent begins. Most years, when we gather together for the Imposition of Ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our humanity and mortality; of our human frailties and capacity for sin. The need for safety precludes that this year, but the message contained in those ashes, and what follows in the ensuing weeks has not changed at all. It is during these weeks before Easter that we, as Christians, are brought face to face with our God in a way that is not always comfortable. Lent is the appointed time for us to behold the suffering of God. Accordingly, we are encouraged to share in it with personal discipline and sacrifice. As the love of God is seen most clearly on the cross at Golgotha, the crosses we each bear bring us ever closer to the one who gave his very life that we might have new life.
The mood of Lent is certainly different from that of Christmas or Epiphany. The images of a suffering Jesus and our own Lenten disciplines can seem dismal at first. The title of this devotion is a joke, obviously, but a powerful argument could be made that maybe we shouldn’t even observe Lent this year. Haven’t we seen enough suffering since this time last year? If you feel that way, I could hardly blame you. I am comfortable assuming that all of us have seen our share of suffering and sacrifice, thank you very much! Do we really need to force more of it to please God?? Well no, God doesn’t need us force anything to maintain our relationship with him. Still, Lent and its sterner tone has a lot to say to us during a time of difficulty. First and foremost, Lent shows us again that ours is a God who is Himself no stranger to suffering. Jesus proved that in his life and ministry, even to the point of being sacrificed on a cross so that our relationship with God could never be broken again.
Of course we already know that the story doesn’t end with a man on a cross but with an empty tomb and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his sacrifice, we too are born into the new life Jesus has provided for us. In baptism, we become part of Jesus’ sacrifice and the inheritors of his resurrection. Dust we may be, and to dust we may return, but eternal life in Jesus Christ is the certain hope of all believers and the real end of the story! Jesus’ sacrifice has rendered our human imperfection ultimately powerless. Let us take the time during the season of Lent to ponder the mystery of this God who has done that which by human standards would be complete folly. God has shown power in powerlessness and turned death into life; reason enough to press on with a faithful Lent. I pray that your Lenten experience will provide you with new insight into this wonderful gift that God has given us through Jesus Christ. Remember, the darkness of Lent will always give way to the brilliance of an Easter light!
May the blessings of the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit strengthen your hearts and minds for the journey of Lent.
Let us pray…
God of salvation, you have showed us that you know our suffering and indeed share it with us. During this season of Lent, help us to ponder more closely the lengths to which you were willing to go to bring us into a relationship with you. Help us focus our hearts and minds on the sacrifice of Our Lord Jesus, and to act accordingly. For it is in His name that we pray. Amen.
Be well, be kind, and be safe. I pray we can see each other soon!
Pastor Wes †