At the height of his popularity, when crowds were flocking to Jesus to be taught and fed and healed, he set his face toward Jerusalem. Several times he tried to explain to his disciples what lay ahead, but they couldn’t understand. Peter, with whom we all have so much in common, took Jesus aside to try to talk some sense into him.
There was no escaping the gospel message, however. “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34) While being a Christian is often inspiring or comforting, it brings many challenges too. Sooner or later, following Jesus leads to the cross.
Lent is the season when we make that journey together. It’s a time when we particularly appreciate the companionship we share, because there’s no choice but to stretch beyond our comfort zones. We need to be reconciled with God, with one another, and with ourselves.
Reconciliation can be pictured in two stages: seeking forgiveness and rebuilding trust. The words of the Lord’s Prayer are planted deep in our hearts: “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive…” Unless we let go of our hurts and judgments, we’ll never be able to lay down our guilt and regrets. “Come to me,” Jesus said, “and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
Embracing forgiveness is not the end of the journey, however. The next step is to re-establish trust: with our neighbors, in our communities, and within ourselves. When we’ve been wounded or have hurt others, it’s hard to risk opening our hearts again. Fortunately, Jesus is there to show us the way of costly and redeeming love.
On Ash Wednesday it was my privilege to invite the congregation “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance, by prayer, fasting and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 265) What does that look like for you this year?
The good news is that we never need to walk alone on this journey. All of us are in the same boat, trying to follow Jesus faithfully in the midst of life’s challenges. We all depend on God’s grace, which meets us around every corner.
Take a leap of faith this year during Lent. You won’t be sorry you did.
Rev. Michael (2-18-15)