Lent is here. This year, Ash Wednesday fell on March 6.
What is Lent, you ask? The word “Lent” is related to the word “long”. In the spring the days are getting longer. Lent leads to Easter. Easter is the day that Jesus rose from the dead, bringing life and immortality to light in his gospel.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. Ashes symbolize our mortality. The pastor says over the casket at the grave, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
This hearkens back to the words of warning that God spoke to Adam when Adam was an innocent man. He forbade him to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
He said, “In the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.”
Adam disobeyed. He ate the fruit in defiance of God. God then told him, “You are dust and to dust you shall return.”
We gather at the grave and the pastor prays the prayer of the people of God: “In the midst of life we are in death. Of whom can we seek help? From you alone, O Lord, who by our sins are justly angered.”
Oh, don’t talk about that! Don’t tell me about an angry God! I have enough trouble with angry people! Tell me about life, not death. Tell me about grace, not sin. Tell me what my heart wants to hear! You want to hear what your heart wants to hear. Hear this! This is what God says about your heart:
The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
Only God, who searches the heart, can understand the depth of our sin. All we can do is look at death taking its toll and claiming for itself every single one of us, sooner or later.
Lent is the long look at death. Whose death? We can mourn our sin because our sin causes our death, but mourning it cannot take it away. It requires another death. The death of Jesus is the death of our death. When Jesus poured out his life unto death, he bore in his body the sin of all the sinners who ever lived.
The sin that you did is the sin for which he suffered. The sin that called on God to punish you is the sin for which he was punished. The sin that burdens you, robbing you of peace with God, and rendering spring just a false and dying hope, is the sin that Jesus bore. He died for you. He rose from the dead. He has life to give. He wants to give it to you because he loves you.
Take a long look at Lent. Look at Jesus suffering and dying. He is suffering and dying for you. He gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life in his gospel. He gives it freely to sinners who need it.
We receive it by believing the gospel he speaks. Looking at death, we find life!