Resources Collected by the Commission on Thriving Congregations
In this instance we’re not talking about remembering the liturgical season as we engage in worship, and we’re not talking about keeping up a lenten practice like giving up chocolate. We’re talking about the reality of lent itself.
For 40 days we observe a time of reflection leading up to Holy Week and Easter – just as the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years; just like Jesus spent 40 days wrestling in the wilderness. After 40 years, the Israelites entered the land that God promised them. They made a new home and started a new phase in their communal life. After 40 days, angels waited on Jesus, and he began a new phase in his life. The truth in both of these scripture stories is that God is present, and God creates new life in places, people, and situations that feel barren.
For many of us – in our personal lives and in our churches – this might feel like a barren time. We may be experiencing a significant amount of anxiety and fear; we may be feeling helpless or vulnerable; we may be going stir crazy or feeling lonely or experiencing depression. If we live with mental illness, we might be experiencing an uptick in symptoms. If we’re in the most at-risk population, we might be wrestling with our own mortality. If we’re invested in the market for our retirement, or if social distancing and the distressed economy mean we might lose our jobs, then we may be worried that we won’t be able to make ends meet. For a lot of reasons, this might feel like the absolute dryest, deadliest desert we’ve ever had to walk through.
It’s lent – it’s true – but that means that Easter’s coming. It might get worse, but Easter’s still coming. Whether we’re feeling like we’re in the wilderness or feeling like we’re already in the tomb, Easter is coming – and that means that the Spirit of God, the Spirit of life, is already curled around us, moving within us, and working in our communities and world to nurture those tendrils of new life that will soon burst forth with the power and hope of the resurrection. Easter is coming, which means that a new kind of life – the abundant life that Christ promised – is coming too. That is the promise of this season. That, friends, is the promise of our baptism.
We’ll be washing our hands a lot in the weeks ahead. Each time you do (and as you count to twenty or sing happy birthday or baby shark – incidentally, singing the first verse and chorus of ‘Jesus Loves Me’ is also a little more than twenty seconds) think about the waters of baptism. Remember your baptism – and don’t just be glad, but have hope knowing that Easter is coming.