Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
[Lent] is a season ultimately made of elevated hopes, raised expectations, ascending spirits, and radiant mornings, and we should never forget that.
- from RISE: AN AUTHENTIC LENTEN DEVOTIONAL by John Pavlovitz
I have always loved the season of Lent. Even as a kid, I loved the austere nature of the liturgies, the readings, and the practices. I appreciated confession during those forty days as it always complimented my self-examinations. I loved receiving ashes on Ash Wednesday, singing the more introspective songs in the folk choir, the purple adornments around the sanctuary, and the contemplative and provocative sermons. Holy Week was especially holy to me, and I loved the foot washing on Holy Thursday, the veneration of the Cross on Good Friday, the joyous celebration at the Easter Vigil, the sunrise service at the cemetery, and the Easter Sunday principal service in the church (yes...I was the kid that went to ALL of them!).
Each year I try to find a Lenten devotional to help me daily focus on the season (it is our holiest of seasons, after all). This year, I am reading John Pavlovitz's RISE: AN AUTHENTIC LENTEN DEVOTIONAL. Pavlovitz is one of the most challenging contemporary Christian authors I know; he is constantly placing the message and demands of Christianity in front of us, and, unlike some writers, he doesn't let us get away with ANYTHING! Lent for him is a very human experience, but one that is faced by each one of us repeatedly with endurance and strength. It is knowing that there will always be darkness, but that the darkness will not overcome the light - dawn follows every night. He also reminds us that when we find ourselves in places that need a Christian presence, we are to be that presence and not shy away from our call to love God and love our neighbor unconditionally.
From this point of view, Lent is not a place for self-immolation but for self-love and celebration. We are human, we are broken, but we are also worthy of God's love and forgiveness. Isn't that ultimately the message of the Cross? Not that Christ merely died for us, but also embraced all of our humanness, taking the blame on himself that we might be blameless, eternally saved in the eyes of our Creator. This is the Good News of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection that we embrace each year.
I hope that you will take advantage of the many ways that St. John's and Grace are providing for you to participate in the Lenten season, and that you will not just appreciate the self-examination that the season invites, but also the hope and radiancy that God promises us in the holiest of seasons.
Wishing you the Peace of Christ,