O Lord, throughout these forty days you prayed and kept the fast; inspire repentance for our sin, and free us from our past.—ELW 319
For those of us who have been Lutherans all of our lives, we know what Lent is about! Simply take the Lutheran guilt you already feel, sprinkle in the words, “by my own fault, by my own most grievous fault,” add a simple supper and Wednesday night worship and that’s pretty much what Lent is. For anyone who didn’t grow up Lutheran or only knows about Lent from Facebook, you may be screaming a common phrase of Martin Luther, “What does this mean?”
For Christians who observe Lent, most would agree that it’s a time for reflection and repentance so that you may draw nearer to God. Traditionally for Catholics, this meant giving something up—especially something that drew your focus away from God. People these days may give up chocolate or soda or another one of their many vices. The “newer” trend is to take something on: like spending more time in prayer or doing more acts of service or being more generous. And, I admit that if you didn’t grow up observing Lent, it may seem a little strange.
But then we remember that Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and the reminder that, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.” There are things we can do that may make us look more alive but in the end our mortality is certain. If all life has to offer is death, then it may seem like no life at all. But, when we draw closer to God, when we are reminded that in the waters of Baptism we are claimed by God as one of God’s own beloved children, when we remember that the destination isn’t death but new life, then this season begins to make a little more sense. Lent takes us on a journey to the cross where Jesus suffered and died for us. Jesus’ disciples and the women who followed him, thought that death had won when the stone was rolled in front of the tomb. But on Easter morning, all they could find was life where they expected to find death. “Jesus is not here, he is risen,” the angel proclaimed.
We enter Lent knowing what happens on Easter and it may seem strange that Lent is needed at all. Lent’s reminder is that we are not God; we are dust. Our Funeral liturgy proclaims the promises made to us in baptism in this way:
“When we were baptized in Christ Jesus, we were baptized into his death. We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Glory of the Father, we too might live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We are dust but we are being raised to new life as Christ was raised from the dead.”
It’s not too late. Take something on the remainder of Lent if it brings you closer to God, add something to your routine if it brings you closer to God, open your senses to the presence of God in your life, face your mortality, then live into the future where death is not the end but Christ is the victor.