Thursday, February 11, 2016
LASTING JOY--Even In Lent
Reflection--First Thursday in Lent Last night’s ashes are gone. We’ve washed them down the sink. Maybe, the hymns or preaching still ring in our ears. Yet, the visible symbol of sorrow are gone. A heightened anticipation accompanies our somberness in Lent. We know the endgame—celebrating Christ Jesus’ death on Good Friday and His resurrection on Easter morning. For this season, you and I have silenced our alleluias as we continue crying out, “Lord, have mercy.” Though the ashes are wiped off our foreheads, sin and the temptation to live in sinstill remains a clear and present reality. We put off facing our vocations of parenting, serving at our job, feeding our bodies—for some extra moments of slumber…forgetting that God goes with us into our daily lives and circumstances. Part of our nature wants to revel in the sounds and smells of last night’s worship….Yes, “here would we stay and sing…” Yet, our Lord called us bed-ward to give our bodies needed rest. Solomon is right, “There is a time for everything.”..for every purpose under heaven. (Eccl. 3:1) You and I daily stray from our callings in life. You and I daily disfigure our faces and our thoughts so as to convince ourselves that we can serve our neighbor or take care of our bodies when the feeling is right. (Matt. 6:3-4ff) The trumpet sounds from the prophets: Repent! “Rend your hearts and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Joel 2:12-13) To us, when smug disregard, in our straying, the Word of promise fills our ears. The ashes are gone, wiped away. Good Friday and Easter lie weeks ahead of us. Yet, our Lord goes with us these forty days of heightened penitence because He has taken our smug neglect, our disregard, our words spoken in anger and our deeds in the name of convenience on Himself. And He calls us to fix our eyes on His suffering and death. He took our negligence, disregard, our craving for convenience away in His mercy. And, He bestows daily forgiveness on us whom He called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified. (2 Cor. 5:21) “Fix your eyes on Jesus,” the writer to the Hebrews reminds us. “He is the pioneer and perfector of our faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down that the right hand of God.” (Heb. 12:1-2) He has washed us clean in His blood when bathing us in His Word and water. And, though that water mark on our foreheads and on our breasts is gone, too. His cross still towers over the wrecks of time, even over the events and circumstances of our lives. Not for His convenience but tfor the joy set before Him, Jesus secured for us everlasting life. So, when we close our eyes that final time on this side of death, He promises to open them to view His redemption, His salvation of our bodies and souls forever. He who knows our goings in and comings out, our rising and our lying down guards us in His peace and saving love.