Today's post is from Concordia Deaconess Jennifer Kettler and is part of a series on Lent. Concordia's Chaplaincy Department actively contributes to our residents' well being -- the commitment they show to those in our care is one of the many ways that Concordia stands out from other senior care providers. If you have any questions or would like to contribute a thought or idea, feel free to leave a comment below!
Lent is difficult.
Lent is a time in the church year set aside for Christians to focus on suffering, sacrifice, and death. Yuck. Why must we do this? Why does the church encourage this? Surely, God tells us to "set our minds on things above" and "Whatever is good?focus on these things." So, what is the deal with Lent?
Some Christian groups practice different spiritual disciplines during this time. Traditionally this includes fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. And we are told we do this to remember Christ's suffering on our behalf.
Lent tends to come during the last leg of winter. So, just when life is already cold and stressful, and when the joy of Christmas and the New Year is beginning to fade into the guilt of not keeping our Resolutions, we are asked to take time to focus on pain and struggle? Isn't God asking a lot of us here?
Interestingly, that is kind of the point. Even though Lent is somber and repentant, it is a beautiful time. During Lent, we learn not to rely upon ourselves. When we are weak and tired and sad, God tells us to lift our eyes to our Savior who endured these same feelings and endured painful situations during His earthly life and death. Christ endured with great patience. He did so not for Himself, but for YOU. Just when we are well aware of our imperfections our inability to keep up with the demands of life, not to mention the demands of our Holy God we are asked to look to the cross and see our Savior.
God knew we sinners would never be able to measure up. So, He arranged to pay the debt for us. Christ's suffering and death has paid for your sins and for mine and for the sins of the whole world! ALL of them. When you read in scripture or hear from your pastor or priest that you are forgiven, believe it!
We meditate on the magnitude of Christ's suffering during Lent. We do this, not to make us feel guilty, but to recognize our need for someone besides ourselves to take up our burdens temporal and eternal. AND to see that this need has been fulfilled in Christ!
I am a poor miserable sinner. I cannot save myself. I cannot measure up to my own expectations most of the time. Let's not even talk about how I fall short of the expectations of our holy and righteous God. Our God is both infinitely wise and infinitely loving. You and I do not have to be perfect, because Christ is perfect. Christ has lived a perfect life and then sacrificed that life as the perfect offering, the atonement for my sin, your sin, and the sin of the whole world. What a relief!
After spending a few weeks focusing on this good news, remembering the high price Christ paid, and recognizing that it is sufficient for our salvation, then comes Easter! On Easter we rejoice in the resurrection of our Lord. But just as one who is already awake cannot wake up until he first falls asleep, so one cannot rise from the dead until first he dies. So, we prepare our hearts. We reflect upon His suffering and the gifts He won for us. We also learn how to see our own suffering rightly and bear the struggles we have been given in this life. But we'll talk about that more next week.