Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Lent

This is the first year I've truly tried to maintain a daily walk inside the season of Lent. In the past years, Lent has only shown up on Sunday mornings; prior to that, not at all. But this year I purposed to take this journey seriously and see what came of it.

I'm reading a couple of different Lenten journals, including the aforementioned Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter (see a couple weeks ago when I reviewed it), and a digital Lenten devotional that shows up in my email inbox every day, sent by the faculty and staff at Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary in Fresno. In addition, our worship on Sundays remains cross-focused, drawing us ever nearer holy week and the remembrance of Christ's sacrificial death upon the cross.

At the same time, we're right in the middle of Amos, a series I've been preaching for a couple of months now, and one that, if we stick with it, will last at least until summer. Do you know Amos? He's angry, indignant, sarcastic, verbally violent, he calls men 'stupid' and women 'cows.' He doesn't relent with all the judgment and accusation and prophecies of destruction and desolation.

And I find myself becoming depressed with it all. I didn't really realize it until I was randomly working through a hymnbook at our piano earlier this week, and came into the Easter section and began to work through some of those songs. . .and suddenly felt a release, a joy, a gladness that had long been missing. I felt hope again, I felt excitement again. The clouds parted and peace was restored. I felt. . .good, I think.

So was that cheating? Did I skip to the end of the book too soon? Did I shortcut Lent? Or is the combination of Lent and Amos really that unhealthy, that perhaps we all need to come up for air for a moment? I long to return to that place of joy and gladness, which is a healthy longing. But would it be unhealthy to go there, rather than allow Lent to do its work? Purging is good, fasting is good, sorrowful repentance for sin is essential. . .but how long, O Lord, must we remain here? How long must we live in the tension of judgment and sorrow, accusation and repentance? How long until the clouds part and we feel your joy once again flood our souls?

I know, Easter is coming soon, and all this will be over. And Amos will end soon enough, and I'll need to preach on 1 John and all the 'Love' passages, just to restore our sense of hope and peace. And perhaps we'll be a little more careful about issues of justice and righteousness for all the time we've spent here.

Just, next year, if I decide to do a minor prophet at the same time as Lent, somebody step on my toes, ok? Remind me never to do this again.

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