In our rearview mirror sits Christmas, New Year’s, the Super Bowl and Valentine’s. And now the calendar turns to the season of Lent. Next week, on Ash Wednesday we kneel to receive ashes on our foreheads. Sometimes I dread Lent. It can feel like a smudge of gray paint muddying an already bleak winter. But this year, I am actually looking forward to it.
In the gospel of Luke, we read about the birth, life and teachings of Jesus. Then a third of the way through the good news, Luke writes about Jesus “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51) The rest of the story unfolds with Jesus headed towards the pain of the cross and what we now know is the empty tomb. There is a heaviness about the rest of the story and yet somehow the story seems genuine and resonates.
Perhaps what draws me to Lent is that it calls us to examine our lives. Christmas is all about joy but Lent gives us the occasion to reflect on what is broken and painful in our world and in our own lives. Lent refuses to sugarcoat. Lent acknowledges the despair we feel about senseless gun violence, protracted family fractures, the horrific tragedy in Turkey and Syria, the fear of global unrest in Ukraine and the angst of a loved one undergoing chemotherapy. Lent reminds us that the God who came to earth entered into the reality of our human suffering and imagined a way for us to change.
Jesus’ journey – as he sets his face to go to Jerusalem where he would be crucified – is an invitation for us to go on a journey too. I love how the late Frederick Buechner describes this journey and the invitation set before us all:
“The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you. Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Nothing can ever separate us. It’s for you I created the universe. I love you. There’s only one catch. Like any other gift, the gift of grace can be yours only if you’ll reach out and take it. Maybe being able to reach out and take it is a gift too.
Grace and Peace,