In the name of God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Welcome to Lent. Contrary to popular assumptions, this season isn’t really about expunging all happiness from your life. For many people, Lent can seem like something of a downer - a morose season. But that’s really not what it’s about. It’s about looking deeper inside ourselves and uncovering those inner places where we feel most distant from God. It’s about uncovering our habits and temptations that keep us from feeling the truth of our connectedness.
But even more so, the reality is that Lent is not just a season in the church, but a part of the reality in all of our lives - at one time or another, anyway. We all have times in our lives when we feel lost in the wilderness - times when we don’t understand; times when feel alone. And we will all be stronger if we learn to see these times - whenever they come - as times of preparation for Resurrection.
Too often the church is accused of making people feel bad, or guilty. And when (and if) we do, we are acting in contrast to the nature of God. God makes new life. That is God’s nature. God draws life to God’s self. That is God’s nature.
Whenever we tear down life or draws lines of separation: that is not God. That is human failure.
So even though we may have gotten it wrong in the past, the job of the church is not just to point out how separate you are from God, but it is the job of the church to point you to the path of Easter - to the path of union and joy and Resurrection.
It is our job to point out the true nature of the God of all creation.
That’s what Lent is really about.
In the Gospel lesson today, we hear the story of Jesus’ lent. The road from our celebration at his birth to his ministry among us passes first through a season of discernment and preparation. We are told that Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness. It was then that temptation crept in. He was hungry and he was weak, and he was tempted with sustenance and power.
That’s the way temptation works. It meets us in those places where we are most vulnerable and offers promises of power.
Lent challenges us to confront our temptation - to see it and to recognize it - to recognize it as one of those things that can make us feel separate from God.
You may have heard by now that one of our own members of this community died yesterday. Arthur Galloway: husband of Cassandra, and father of Serenia and Glenda. Death is always a sad time in the life of any community, and perhaps that sadness feels even more acute now, with the death of one so young, and who seemed so healthy.
So many of us find that we are in a wilderness of our own right now.
The truth is, there really are no easy answers as to why tragedy strikes. Whether it’s an earthquake in Japan that triggers tsunamis across the ocean, or the sudden death of a loved one, there are no easy answers. It can be tempting to look for them, but any we find will prove illusory sooner or later.
All we can really do is build community, and strengthen the bonds of love and affection that hold us together. Because in times like these we need them all the more. In times of crisis, they are the only things that will hold us closer to God.
God doesn’t cause suffering. But in all of our lives we will have a season of it here and there. So we prepare by loving, for it is only love, which can truly sustain us in the Lenten seasons of our lives.
Lent isn’t about feeling bad. It’s about learning to find life and resurrection, even when they seem most difficult to see.
And this Lent will pass and Easter will be waiting on the other side. It always is.
Thanks be to God. Amen.