The beginning of Lent is less than a week away and yet if feels like the last Lent never ended. We were about two weeks into the Lenten season in March of 2020 when we last met in person for a full worship service. In the storage room of the event center where we meet you will find Lenten purple vestments folded neatly waiting for us to return for worship. The wooden cross covered with drawings and prayers scribbled on violet paper by the children in our congregation is still waiting for the Lenten reflections to be replaced with multi-colored Easter flowers.
This has been an immensely painful year. We’ve circulated memes and done our best to look on the bright side but the truth is that nearly half a million Americans have died. 2.35 million people have died worldwide. There are more names of lost mothers, fathers, grandparents, neighbors, and beloved friends than we can read aloud. There are more faces of those lost to COVID than can fit on a memorial. And so we have collectively chosen forgetfulness. I urge you to resist this erasure of the dead by following Faces of Covid which shares the stories of individual people who have died.
Our responses to the pandemic have driven a wedge deep into existing divisions and we have splintered in every vulnerable place. We are awash in anxiety and sorrow but find ourselves ill-equipped to respond. Culturally, we are well-practiced at suppressing even the smallest sadness. Think of the ways that we have thinned out our customs of grieving and burying our dead so that we apologize for tears and move quickly to celebration.
Lent is the season for embracing this sorrow. In it we repent for both our personal and corporate sins and return to the Lord who alone is able to restore what the locusts have eaten (Joel 2:25). As Christians who do not fear death but call out it out as the corruption of God’s good intent for his beloved world, we are able to enter into this grief without losing ourselves to it because God always journeys with us. It is good and faithful to acknowledge the depth of our sorrow with Jesus who is deeply moved by our grief and weeps with us for those have died, just as he did with Mary and Martha when Lazarus was dead (John 11:33-35).
If you’ve been deferring your grief I can assure you that there is no moment on the horizon when we will be free of this sadness. Lent is the season for pouring out your sorrow, anger, and guilt. It is the appointed time to confess the sins, personal and corporate, that have bred in secret during these months of separation. It isn’t just for small practices of self-denial but for whole-hearted grieving over the state of the world.
Lent leads us to the cross with Jesus. There’s no place of greater honesty and openness than the cross where Jesus hung naked and vulnerable on our behalf. Bring every sorrow, sin, and burden to the to the cross where Jesus suffers with us and for us. He meets you in it and pours out his grace that holds us steady even when everything else is shaken.
Lent begins Wednesday, February 17. Here is a checklist to help you prepare:
- During Lent we are called to pray, fast, and give to the poor. Consider now how you will respond to that invitation.
- Purchase our Lenten Devotional The Psalm on the Cross by the Rev. Canon David Rosebery.
- Pick up children’s material for Lent from the Roseberry’s House (1400 Chickasaw).
- Plan to worship with us on Ash Wednesday. Pick up ashes at the Roseberry’s house (1400 Chickasaw) or have them mailed to you.
- Listen to one of our seasonal Spotify playlists: Lament or Ash Wednesday.