March 6, 2013

Lent, Served Cold

Lord, who throughout these forty days 
For us didst fast and pray, 
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins 
And close by Thee to stay.*

I’m done with the snow. I miss the sunlight. On a day like Tuesday, when the sun makes a startling mid-day appearance, I feel as though I should run to my neighbors’ homes, shouting “Do not fear the strange orange ball in the sky!” In other words, I’m ready for spring.

But … Maybe, just maybe, the persistence of winter serves us followers of Jesus well, seeing as how the Lenten season still has a few weeks to go before giving way to spring. Lent: that forty day (not counting Sundays) solemn march toward Easter and the relief of Jesus’ resurrection. In Lent, the hymns and songs slow down. Explicit prayers of confession resurface in our worship. And everyone’s giving up Facebook and Snickers for a time. Lent is a season for contemplative restraint.

As Thou didst hunger bear, and thirst, 
So teach us, gracious Lord, 
To die to self, and chiefly live 
By Thy most holy Word.

Lent is a time for deliberate restraint because Jesus practiced the same throughout his forty days in the wilderness. He did without creature comforts, in order to get clear about his calling. So we do without, in order to make fresh space in our lives for him, his word, and his way. We hold back from some comforts in order to decipher where and what we are holding back from God. Perhaps the bracing wind, the little mounds of stubborn snow, and the mulling slate sky overhead, perhaps each has an appointed role to play right about now. Perhaps they help mark these many weeks as a time to “die to self.” Because in killing off some of our wants, we learn to live by what God has already provided. We die a little bit, precisely to welcome more of the resurrection into our reality.

Abide with us, that so, this life 
Of suffering over past, 
An Easter of unending joy 
We may attain at last.

Since a little cold makes one ready for a little warmth, perhaps for now we say: Come snow. Come dark skies. Come bitter wind. Come mark this Lent as a bundle-up time, a constricted season. Come help us withdraw into ourselves just long enough to examine how it is with me and neighbor and Jesus. Maybe, along these lines, Lent is a meal best served cold.

(Naw. Forget all of this. It's too cold out. I’m ready for the bright light of the son.)

*Lyrics from the hymn Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days by Clau­dia F. Her­na­man, Child’s Book of Praise; A Man­u­al of De­vo­tion in Sim­ple Verse, 1873.