Pastors Corner


We’re heading towards the end of winter and the beginning of Spring when Christians around the world will celebrate the season of Easter. That means we are currently in the less famous and less known season of Lent in the Christian calendar. What is Lent? Glad you asked! For centuries, Christians have used Lent as a season of “spiritual preparation.” Because we know we are going to celebrate resurrection and new life on Easter, Christians need to remember why we need resurrection and new life in the first place. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday when someone marks our foreheads with a cross of ashes and reminds us, “We are dust and to dust we shall return.” In Lent we’re supposed to reflect internally on our own mortality and on the changes we need in our lives. In Lent we’re supposed to ask pointed questions like, “Into what darkness do I need Christ’s light to shine?” Or, “What is something old in me that needs to die so something new can live?” In Lent we’re supposed to reflect on our communities too. We are to ask similar questions about our neighborhoods and communities, “In our neighborhoods and communities, into what darkness are we called to shine Christ’s light?” And/or, “In our neighborhoods and communities, what is something old that needs to die so something new can live?” When we pursue concrete questions like this, we become much more aware of how Christ is bringing new life in concrete ways.

Lent isn’t fun though, and so not a lot of people do this heavy “spiritual weightlifting.” It’s not fun to peer into your heart, mind, or body and ask what sins need forgiveness and change. It’s not fun to peer into our communities and ask, “What people or groups of people don’t have enough and what can I do about it?” It’s not fun to recognize fading bodies that will one day culminate in death of the entire organism. Lent isn’t fun. But fun isn’t the point of Lent.

For that reason, a lot of people like to skip Lent and go right to Easter. In fact, in the previous place I lived, you could see churches advertising Easter services four weeks in advance, right in the middle of Lent. “Come celebrate resurrection!” they would say, without ever acknowledging the horrid reality of death. “Come receive forgiveness of sins!” they would say, without ever inviting people into the hard practices of confession and self-examination. “Come receive new life!” they would say, without ever acknowledging that for something new to live, something old must die.

Easter without Lent is the Empty Tomb without the Cross. It’s forgiveness without confession. It’s glory without sacrifice. It’s power without vulnerability. It’s new life without anything dying away. It’s all the shine and glitz of the spiritual life, but none of the deep dive into sin and pain (ours or the world’s around us). It’s all conquest and no surrender. It’s a bandaid without attending to the wound. It’s showing up at our neighbor’s birthday parties, but skipping their funerals. It’s Pollyanna saying, “Everything’s fine” when she and we know everything is NOT fine.

Lent won’t let us get away with such shallow spirituality. This Lenten season, may we have the courage to take a deep dive into dark places that need Christ’s light (in ourselves and in the world around us). May we acknowledge something old in us that needs to die so something new can live. May we put specific names to our dark places and “old things” so that we know exactly where Christ will bring new life and resurrection. Lent gets us ready for Easter. If we want to see new life, it helps to peer into death first.