Sunday, 19 March 2006

On the Genius of Lent

There is a gospel blues song entitled Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven, but Nobody Wants to Die! If we Christians were honest, many of us would have to admit that this is true of us, too.

We expend considerable time and energy on the wanting to go to heaven, we sing about how good it will be there and we make sure we’ve got the right prayers prayed. When it comes to the dying, however, we tend to avoid even thinking about such unpleasantness, let alone preparing ourselves and talking about it with people who matter.

This is where the genius of the season of Lent comes in. Beginning with Ash Wednesday’s dramatic signing of the cross with ashes (ashes to ashes) on our foreheads, and ending with the joyous celebration of the Resurrection, Lent is a rich season of spiritual disciplines. They are self-examination, repentance, prayer, fasting, self-denial and reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.

Year after year, Lent gives us an opportunity to deal with our mortality and the sinful selfishness which is an integral part of that state.

Despite our reluctance deal with such things, Lenten spiritual disciplines help us to face, learn to live with, and prepare for, the reality that our mortal selves will, indeed, have to die before we can get to heaven. They also remind us that we have to die to our sinfulness; to things like unforgiveness, or to the pride which may hold us back from submitting to someone else. The list is endless.

All this dying, however, is not without purpose. Jesus said, “whoever loses his [or her] life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 8.35)

May we learn to lose our lives well, for Jesus’ sake, as we observe this most Holy Lent.