A 40-day challenge
April 4, 2011
by Pastor Bill Baldwin, Prairie Community Church, Ev. U.C.C., Lester Prairie

We’re in the midst of the Lenten season, the time when we look at the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, up to and including his suffering and death.

For most of us, we’ve been through this season many times before, and perhaps it all seems a little stale and tired this time around. Believe me, I hear you on that. But as much as we sort of take Lent for granted, consider the power of rituals and routines to help shape and give meaning to our lives.

Let’s start with something basic, like your birthday. Once a year you celebrate your coming to this planet and it shapes the whole year. We all look forward to, or back at, our birthday as a basic reference point for living.

The church year, including Lent, gives us opportunity over the course of 12 months to look at all the highlights of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. We start with the anticipation of the birth of Christ in Advent and take four weeks, usually the four weeks in December, to wait and watch for the coming of the Savior.

The first Sunday in Advent is the first day of a new church year, which ends the just before Advent the following year. Then we have a couple months of what we call Ordinary time, which means that there is no special season of the church happening at that time. It is just, well, ordinary Sundays for awhile. Then, when Lent comes, we know that winter is about over and spring isn’t far away.

The church year and the seasons are very closely connected in our minds and hearts.

We are all creatures of habit, and the artificiality of the church year helps us to have predictable comings and goings of church seasons throughout the year. Yes, the church year is very much a human-made artificial plan for working through the life of Jesus. But it does certainly play into our habitual natures.

God has given us all kinds of rituals and patterns that guide our lives. We have the rising and setting of the sun each day, the movement of the ocean tides, and the changing of the seasons. I think God knew that we would need these repeating patterns in order to give stability in life and a sense of where we are in the year.

All that said, Lent is a time to draw closer to God through our relationship to Jesus. It is a time of intensified prayer, maybe times of fasting or sacrifice, and certainly a time to read the Gospels and reacquaint ourselves with the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

I don’t know why some people fight the Lenten season so much, but they sure do. They refuse to go to midweek services, they refuse to take up the challenge to grow deeper in faith, and they refuse to use the opportunity to contemplate their life with Christ. Thank God for those who still revere Lent and seek to make it a profitable time of reflection and growth.

Jesus lived to show us how to live, he suffered to show us that he understands our own suffering, and he died to show us what true sacrifice for others looks like.

Do you believe in God through faith in Jesus Christ? Then isn’t it worth a short 40-day journey each year to dwell on God’s grace and sanctifying power?

Blessings and peace as we move deeper into the Lenten season, and may you have courage to embrace this time with a hunger to know God through the Savior.

And before you know it, spring will have sprung, and the snow will be but a memory.