LENT. Some years the season of Lent becomes merely a six week narrative of following Jesus on his journey to Jerusalem. This year, when St. Mark tells our gospel stories, is a good time to more deeply sink into a season to relearn the elements of our Christian faith, week by week. This year, stories from Mark are enriched by stories from St. John.
Lent is a time for catechesis. If you see the word “catechism” in there, you’ve already got the idea that Lent is a time to reclaim our baptism as we prepare for Easter. When we listen to the gospel stories as a way of recalling our own Christian identities as child of God, we are less likely to see Lent only as a “Jesus movie” in which we imagine Jesus in his own time and place.
When Lent is catechesis, it is a good time to remember that not everyone in our assemblies may yet be baptized. Or, maybe the “veteran baptized” may have lost their grasp of what the “long ago” sacramental rite means now in their seventy year-old lives! Does this mean re-baptism? NO! Review! Relearn! Reclaim!
The season of Lent is rich with baptism scriptural imagery. Especially as we prepare candidates for baptism – infants or adults – the waters:
Drown the evil around us Genesis 9
Name us a part of God’s law Genesis 17
Enroll us as a people formed by God’s law Exodus 20
Offer healing from deadly sin Numbers 21
Welcome us home as a people whose law is written on the heart Jeremiah 31
These scriptures are actually chronological: they help us retell our own story, reminding us that God’s mercy in the Old Testament is not different from God’s mercy in Christ.
Lent is not merely somber self-sacrifice. Lent is a reminder of the ancient liturgical Gospel acclamation “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful; slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” Return = Repent. Repentance is not a frightening appearance before any angry God, but a homecoming to One who longs to save us in the midst of our fears and trials.
God longs to hear us as a father listens to his children – Ash Wednesday
Angels accompany Jesus during his temptation in the wilderness- Lent I
Jesus calls Peter to move from confession to discipleship – Lent II
The corrupt temple cannot throw Jesus off his mission – Lent III
The Cross becomes a sign of healing – Lent IV
Death is a precursor to new life Lent – V
An honest look at these scripture texts, an attentive hearing of them as Word of God, and a realistic engagement in the world around us, will remind us that we are in desperate need of God’s help and God’s salvation. Sin and grace resonate with some people, but there are likely some people for whom any mention of sin produces only shame with no hint of restoration or return to wholeness. It is not enough to simply
point to the cross without providing a clear sense of God’s mercy found there.
Do we find it easy enough to find words to name our shortcomings and needs? The challenge is to name the gifts of grace with as much creativity and witness during our Lenten rediscovery of Baptism.
Then we’ll really be ready for Holy Week and Easter!
The Reverend Dr. David A. Genszler