Monday, April 9, 2012

Lent gives way to Easter

From Pastor Ed… (for Easter Sunday, 4/8/2012)

Theologian Vigen Guroian once described the season of Lent in terms of gardening. At the same time of year as Lent— late winter into early spring, after the thaw has begun but before new growth sets in earnestly— the work that a gardener does is difficult and not particularly pleasant: turning the earth, clearing out old weeds, breaking up hardened dirt, folding new, fertilized loam into the spent soil of the last growing season. The pleasure and delight of it, Guroian says, is not in the work of the season but in what it gives way to in the coming growth and harvest.

So too Lent: the work we are given to during the 40 days of Lent is not especially pleasing nor easy. Considering our sin, our need, our desperation; facing up to our selfishness and our tendency to seek after the pleasures of the moment instead of the blessings of enduring self-abasement; fasting of something beloved in order to more closely turn our love toward the Savior. The joy of Lent comes in its ending.

This has been a difficult Lent for me in some ways. My heart has not been wholly in the fasting that I have undertaken, and I've been tempted to abandon my fasting— a temptation that I have too easily given in to, justifying myself along the way: "it's not doing me any good," or, "I don't feel like fasting anymore," or, "I'm already giving up other things." Likewise, rather than considering my sin more fully, more deeply, my tendency has been to avoid considering it at all. As the 40 days of Lent is intended to parallel Jesus' 40 days of fasting and preparation in the desert, it seems like I've found the parallels in all the wrong places this year… plenty of desert-like dryness, and an abundance of temptation.

The end of Lent, therefore, is all the more welcome for me. Lent ends with Easter, as 40 days of fasting and preparation give way to eight weeks of feasting and celebration. Death to self— and also, as in my case, death by selfishness— is overcome by resurrection to new life in Christ. All that appears dark and insurmountable in the power and strength of ourselves succumbs to the light of redemption and the dawning of the hope of new day.

In all of my faltering and failure through Lent, my great hope is that it isn't my accomplishments but Christ's that account for my salvation. Though I am tempted and give into temptation, Christ was tempted in every way yet did not sin. While I am quick to embrace living for the immediate gratification of "now" our Lord both lived and died for the ultimate glorification of all of His people. Although I sometimes feel shrouded in a pall of death from my sin and shortcomings, Jesus Christ has overcome death and secured my promised resurrection. Hallelujah— Christ is risen indeed!

As I reach the end of this year's Lent and embrace the welcome warmth of this Easter, my prayer is that my eyes would be opened all the more to the glory of Christ's accomplishment on my behalf and yours. Just as two of His disciples walked along with Him, seeing and learning how all of the Scriptures taught of Him, may God grant us the blessing of opening His Word to us in fresh ways. And just as those disciples' eyes were opened when Jesus broke bread and gave it to them, and they saw Him for who He was and is, so also might we see Christ more clearly and fully through the bread and wine that He has blessed and given to us in the Sacrament.

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