On this Ash Wednesday, as a missionary kid growing up in the Christian & Missionary Alliance, following the liturgical Church calendar simply wasn’t a primary way I understood the practice of Christianity (other than celebrating Christmas and Easter…).
For the next forty days, Lent will be practiced by millions of Christians around the world: a stripping away and simplifying of the “muchness and manyness” of our earthly existence–particularly for those of us in the Western world who have so much–in order to devote more time to consider our own neediness of Christ’s gracious forgiveness of our sin. (There’s a challenging Lenten question: What’s a Syrian Christian to give up these days?)
Whether it’s fasting from food (or entertainment, or meat or alcohol…), we purpose to be filled instead with Living Bread & Water–Christ and the Scriptures. We desire to be more intentional, more confessional and repentant about our own attitude toward sin. I couldn’t be more enthusiastic about the biblical need for this difficult, costly behavior as we prepare to remember Christ’s death on Good Friday and his amazing resurrection that Easter morning.
But, to be honest, the forty days of Lent wear like that irritating, itchy, too-tight, unbearably hot wool sweater I wear only once a winter in Chicago when its -20 outside. These “mourning clothes” just fit funny.
It’s almost as if I’m regressing in my progressive sanctification.
I serve a risen Savior, whose Spirit fills me to give me life, set me free and is on mission to transform me more and more every day into “the whole measure of the fullness of Christ”(Eph. 4:13). I wish we would spend just as much time in church encouraging one another to celebrate the transforming power of Christ within us to make us holy, pure and powerful–shining “cities on a hill”. [According to the rest of the 325 days on the liturgical calendar, you could argue that we do, because after Easter we’re on to Ascension Day through to Pentecost, then celebrating Christ’s incarnation at Christmas, then finally back to Ash Wednesday…]
I just don’t want to get so caught up in the past that I fail to thrive in the life-changing, joy-filled Real Presence of the Risen Christ with me today (Lent or not). So at Blanchard Warrenville this year, we’re going to do our best to model this very present spirit of celebration during Lent.
Did you know Sundays don’t count in the forty days of Lent?
Praying, mourning, repenting, confessing and giving up Monday through Saturday; but come Sunday morning this year, let’s throw off those old, mournful graveclothes and colorfully dress ourselves with the celebration of gathering (we’re even doing a baby dedication on March 4!), proclaiming Christ’s tranforming presence to forgive, cleanse and empower us to give us the hope to become like Christ. I long for a God-drenched spirit of Joy to define our gatherings at Warrenville during these five Sundays of Lent.
I’ve probably just offended a whole bunch of you with this post today: that’s really not my intent. I can’t wait for the Solemn Assembly this coming Sunday evening at 5:30pm at our Wheaton Campus. It’s one of the highlights of my spiritual journey every year. I need to mourn this Lent–to truly confess and repent of my very real sin. But I won’t get stuck there.
You’re welcome to wait till Easter to put on your “Sunday best”, I just can’t wait that long…