From his early morning encounter with the guards in Gethsemane, his trial before the High Priest and Pilate, the beating and mockery he endured at the hands of the Roman soldiers, to being nailed to a tree and left to hang naked for 6 hours…never once did Jesus complain.
I cannot fathom the pain and loneliness he must have felt this day a long time ago and yet when I realize he did it all for you and me, I find myself humbled and grateful. The only man in the history of humankind able to withstand the weight of the world’s sins and not be crushed. This is what makes Good Friday. A burden that would crush any of us in an instant was taken off our hearts that day.
Masks. We all wear them. We wear them to cover up blemishes, brokenness, shame, guilt, etc. We wear them throughout the week and if you go to church, especially on Sundays. You know the look, “I’ve got this all together and am quite successfully managing all of the various emotional, spiritual, social, and relational balls that are currently in the air all around me at this moment thank-you-very-much.” Oh the masks we wear.
And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)
Prayer is the hard work of spiritual growth. We cannot expect to grow in relationship with another if we rarely talk to him or her. Even when we don’t feel like putting in the effort, we know we must if we value the relationship or want to see it grow. Our relationship with God is no different. Prayer is a way in which we strengthen our relationship with God, even when we don’t feel like praying. Prayer is hard work.
Numbers represent people. God cares deeply about people. To suggest numbers don’t matter is silly at one end and a dangerous form of denial on the other. We have made a “personal” relationship with Christ so personal and so subjective that we have few quantitative ways to measure growth within the Church other than numbers.
Lent reminds us of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, which he was led into. Now wait a second, does this suggest that there are times when God leads us into the wilderness, not just out of it? Yep. And guess what else? The wilderness can be a very messy place.
I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. (Ezekiel 34:26)
I don’t use the word blessings very often. It’s not that I don’t believe in blessings or that I haven’t been blessed in many ways, it’s just a word I don’t use. If I’m honest, the main reason I don’t use the word blessing(s) very often is because it feels spiritually loaded.
Fasting has never been a spiritual discipline I’ve been very good at practicing. The times I have fasted haven’t been without meaning but haven’t moved me as much spiritually as I would have expected. Honestly, one of the biggest takeaways I’ve had after each time of fasting has been the amount of time I think about food. I don’t think I’m obsessed with food, (or perhaps I am and don’t realize it) but I did realize I think about what I’m going to eat, want to eat, should eat, shouldn’t eat, what kind of snack I want while I sit at my desk, etc. a lot.
The ashes are a tangible reminder of our mortality. A physical reminder of how short our time is in this life. We are but a mist that appears for a short time and disappears (James 4:14). The ashes remind us to mourn for our sins and of our need for confession and repentance. I believe there is life in the ashes.
Lent. The Latin version (Quadragesima) means forty, as in the number of days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting before beginning his public ministry. The English version (Lent) initially meant “spring” and also conveys the idea of long, as in the days getting longer in the Spring. Whether you find yourself “giving something up” or “taking something on” for Lent, it is a season which holds the potential for significant spiritual renewal and growth.