“Uh, oh!”: Being surprised by Lent

In the liturgical calendar we have two times specifically set apart for waiting: Advent and Lent. In Advent, we are waiting for Jesus to come into the world. In Lent, we are awaiting Christ’s death and resurrection. We are preparing, not for the birthday party of Christmas, but for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Easter.
There are very different celebrations of life that happen surrounding a birth and a death. Even in what we wear, we know that one dresses very differently for a funeral than for a birthday party.
I know many of you over this past year did your own waiting and preparing around the deaths of loved ones. As a congregation, we lost many a beloved member this year. In my own family, I lost both my grandfather and my great aunt. Each death carries it’s unique grief; some catch us with their suddenness, some overwhelm us by the drawn out pain of a loved one. Working with FPC Maumee’s GriefShare ministry over this past year I have seen how death can bring deep sorrow, reluctant respite, and even reunion among family members. And here we are again, awaiting a death, the death of Jesus Christ, who’s birth we celebrated just a few months ago.
I remember a Good Friday service, about ten years ago, when Pastor James was leading worship. He was reading from scripture and got to the part where it says that Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified. His son, Spencer, who was then around 16 months old exclaimed loudly, “Uh, oh!”
Everyone chuckled, and we went back to worship. Spencer said “uh, oh,” quite a lot around that time so the word choice wasn’t entirely unusual, but the perfect timing of this struck me. We are so used to Easter rolling around on the liturgical calendar that we’ve stopped being surprised by it. The death of God incarnate, somehow no longer shocks us. We take it for granted that of course Jesus came to die for us, so let’s go ahead and celebrate the joy of the resurrection and the promise of life eternal. While yes, we should rejoice that Christ now sits beside God in heaven and makes a way to everlasting life, let us not forget that to do all of that, Christ first had to die. Christ “descended into hell.” And in Lent, we prepare for such a death, acknowledging that this death happened so that we might have life everlasting our God.
So how do you prepare for such an occasion? How do you honor Christ’s death with your life? It is my prayer that this time may be a time for you to allow yourself to be at least a little surprised by the magnitude of such a sacrifice. May Jesus’ life spur you towards enacting God’s Kingdom of love and justice in the world.

(Originally Written for FPC Maumee’s E-Newsletter)