This week we begin the part of the Church year known as Lent. The word Lent actually comes from a word that meant spring. Lent is the harbinger of spring, a signal that life will begin anew very soon. We can’t see it yet, but we know something grand is about to happen.
This Wednesday people from St. Paul’s and Christ Community Church will gather together in our sanctuary for a service known as Ash Wednesday. During that service most of the congregation will come forward and have a small cross of ashes put on their foreheads. The words said to them will be; from dust you have come, to dust you shall return. In other words, your body once was not, and, unless Jesus comes again before your death, your body will return to the dust from which it came. We start the Lenten season by reminding ourselves that because of sin, our bodies will die. It’s not exactly a place for a service of “happy, happy, clappy, clappy,” is it?
In terms of the Church year, which follows the life of Christ on earth, Lent represents the period of time after the Transfiguration which took place in a Gentile area north of Galilee. It is the period in which Jesus and His disciples move from that place south, through Galilee, Samaria and the trans-Jordan to Jerusalem where He will be hailed first as King, and then 5 days later crowned not with gold but with thorns as He is hung on a cross to die.
Luke says that Jesus “set His face to go to Jerusalem.” That’s an interesting phrase, “set His face…” It speaks of the Lord’s determination, His resolute will to accomplish that which He came to do. The binding of mankind’s destiny wrought by sin was soon to be no more, but such a mighty deed could not be fulfilled without great and terrible pain. Jesus set His fact to go to Jerusalem because He had a mission–a mission to lift us, you and me, up out of the ashes of death and bring us into the light of life eternal.
Lent is roughly 6 weeks long but does not include Sundays, which are always celebrations of the Resurrection. During that time I encourage everyone to be as resolute in their remembrance of the sacrifice of Christ as He was resolute in His determination to make that sacrifice. It’s been said that there is no such thing as a free lunch–and when we consider what God did for us, that is most certainly true.