|Many years ago, my family and I returned home from church where we had sung several rather dreary hymns appropriate to the Lenten season which we had been slogging through for several Sundays, and my daughter griped, “Dad, how much longer are we gonna have to sing about this ‘forty days’ crap?” |
The season of Lent has a bad reputation. Because some have over-emphasized penitential customs in the past, most of us are a bit embarrassed about it. Besides, we are a positive, upbeat, can-do culture. We are all about self-esteem and self-affirmation, not guilt and confession. Lent doesn’t seem to fit the American psyche.
Barbara Brown Taylor’s words about Ash Wednesday could just as easily apply to the whole Lenten season: “I think it is safe to say that Christians need never fear the commercialization of Ash Wednesday. Hallmark will never spend much money on research and design, and shopkeepers will not dress their windows in sackcloth and ashes. There is no apparent danger that repentance will ever catch on with the culture at large, especially since it does not sell all that well in church.”
Yet, as I have said so often, it is in worship together as a Christian community that we are reminded of who we really are and what is true. There has to be a negative
|side of that as well as a positive. Our world wants us to think sin is wrong because it hurts our fellow human beings, or it hurts us, or it hurts the social fabric. |
The New Testament, however, says sin is wrong because it hurts God. First and foremost our disobedience breaks God’s heart. I need reminders from time to time that my willful mistakes are played out on a canvas much larger than social conventions and expectations. My actions matter to God and when those actions break God’s heart, it should matter to me. The world does a lousy job with that message.
The world also does a lousy job with the message of forgiveness. Our culture is merciless with those who don’t measure up to whatever standards happen to be in vogue at the time. But you and I worship a God whose grace is limitless, who will never leave us wandering in the limbo between confession and forgiveness. I need reminders of that truth too.
Lent is a season for remembering we are imperfect creatures who break the heart of the God who has given us so much, but who are forgiven and restored by that same gracious God. We will not hear that message from Washington, Wall Street, Main Street, or Hollywood. Only in worship — as we celebrate life as it really is — can we develop the kind of discipleship which is born in deep gratitude.
So while some may see Lent as the time of that “forty days crap,” I welcome it as a time to be reminded of who I am, and whose I am. I pray it will be so for you as well.