This time of year, clergy and parish offices are in the throes of Lent and Easter planning. Although the average parishioner will ease their way into the Lenten journey, the clergy and parish office are already ordering supplies for Holy Week and Easter celebrations, having mostly confirmed everything for Lent. Though that reality may not be a surprise, what you may not realize is how challenging it is to hold two very different seasons in one’s heart and mind with authenticity. It is hard to plan for Easter when we haven’t journeyed through the forty days of Lent. It is difficult to jump to the command to rejoice, when we have not yet mourned Christ’s death.
Many of my parishioners will be the first to tell you how much they loathe Lent. They love the joy of Christmas and Easter, and even enjoy the beauty of Epiphany and the season of Pentecost. But Lent feels like a season of imposed darkness and gloom. They do not like the dreary hymns and the long, sad journey and examination of our sinfulness. My response is always the same: how can we celebrate at the tomb if we haven’t mourned at the cross?
But as we have done our planning for Easter this year, I realized how insensitive I have been in my question. The truth is I am only able to sit at the foot of the cross because I am fortunate enough to know what waits on the other side. The disciples, followers, and family of Jesus did not have that luxury. Their darkness was real, their fears justified, and their doubts reasonable and expected. I do not mean to suggest that we “pretend” our way through Lent as some sort of contrived experience in repentance. Instead, what I realize is that the only way I am able to explore my own sinfulness and depravity so deeply and authentically is because of the promise of and hope in the resurrection. I am able to fall because I know Christ will catch me. That does not mean the falling is any less scary. No one likes to really delve into their brokenness and confess their faults to our God. But we do so out of the promise of a God who loves us no matter what.
I hope you will explore our Lenten offerings at St. Margaret’s this year and take full advantage of a time for true self-examination and prayer. Our God and the Church are journeying with you. You are not alone, and you can trust in the never-failing love of Christ to catch you!