This has been the most unusual Lenten season that I have ever experienced because of everything that is happening all around me. Yet it somehow seems appropriate. Lent is often described as a time of preparation and an opportunity to go deeper with God. Indeed this season many of us are driven to the feet of the Master. And we are not disappointed as this year with the pandemic that moving throughout the country Lent has become the bright spot of hope and assurance that is shining out into a very dark world of fear and loneliness. I cannot help but think how miserable life would be at this time without this bright hope and anticipation of Good Friday and Easter.
With Covid-19 surrounding us with death and fear of death I am reminded of Bonhoeffer’s words:
“The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26). Dealing with dying doesn’t mean dealing with death. The overcoming of dying is within the realm of human possibilities; the overcoming of death means resurrection. Based not on the art of dying, but on the resurrection of Christ, a new, cleansing wind can blow into the present world. . . . If a few people really believed this and let it affect the way they move in their earthly activity, a lot of things would change. To live on the basis of resurrection—that is what Easter means.Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. God is on the Cross: Reflections on Lent and Easter (p. 74).
A new, cleansing wind….just what we need. Just what will come at just the right time. Just the right time according to the calendar but also for those who wait in expectation and anticipation. Eyes fixed on our Light of hope and salvation and living life on the basis of resurrection.
Since we have been confined and separated, unable to gather together as a congregation for worship, I have been reading and worshipping privately and share with you a couple of items from the archives of past Lenten observances that have touched me especially today.
John (a dialogue)
I am John, a fisherman, the son of a fisherman, the brother of a fisherman. Years ago I saw before me the life of my father and brother, stretching as wide and clear as the Sea of Galilee. There were nets to mend and boats to repair, fish to be sorted and sold. Life had a texture as comforting and reliable as the passing of seasons.
Then he came. He called, “Follow me” and we could hear no other voices–not the sea, not our friends, not even our father and mother. And so my brother James and I left the nets and followed him, unsure of our motivation, knowing only that we could not resist his call. We would become fishers of men, he said. We didn’t know what he meant, but we followed just the same.
He called others, too, until there were twelve of us. Not all were fishermen. Some were learned, some were not–we were philosophers, businessmen, tradesmen, rebels. But we were all seekers and we followed him, looking for answers even before we had fully formed the questions.
For three years we walked and talked and lived with him as he taught us things unfamiliar to our Galilean minds. It was not always easy to understand him; but he was patient like a father working with an eager, but less-than-brilliant child. And we tried to learn and understand because we loved him more than our own lives.
Then he left us. It happened almost before we knew it, although we should have known. The signs were there all along. Always under the surface lurked the hatred, the anger, the scent of murder waiting for its hour. But love never wants to believe in evil, and we refused to see the signs. We talked of faithfulness and greatness in a kingdom yet to come; and he spoke of suffering and crucifixion; and we ignored him. But he knew. He always knew.
When they came, led by the traitor, Judas, to take him away, we scattered like frightened children. Long forgotten were our vows of loyalty. We left our promises in the dark of Gethsemane.
Kenedy, Pam (2003). Beneath the Cross. The Stories of Those Who Stood at the Cross of Jesus. Nashville, TN: Ideals Publications
Must Jesus bear the cross alone,
And all the world go free?
No, there’s a cross for everyone,
And there’s a cross for me.
How happy are the saints above,
Who once went sorrowing here!
But now they taste unmingled love,
And joy without a tear.
The consecrated cross I’ll bear
Till death shall set me free;
And then go home my crown to wear,
For there’s a crown for me.
Upon the crystal pavement down
At Jesus’ piercèd feet,
Joyful I’ll cast my golden crown
And His dear Name repeat.
O precious cross! O glorious crown!
O resurrection day!
When Christ the Lord from Heav’n comes down
And bears my soul away.
George N. Allen