During Advent, I asked a number of Anchorage pastors to share an Advent reflection on “Advent as an Antidote to Consumerism”.
As we are now in the Season of Lent, I felt it appropriate to again ask a cross-section of local pastors to share some thoughts and reflections on Lent. The first contributor is Pastor Dan Bollerud, of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church.
Lent is the 40 days, minus Sundays, from Ash Wednesday to Easter. In scripture, it marks the time when the stories of Jesus transition from who Jesus is to Jesus setting his face, and beginning his journey, toward Jerusalem. The texts reflect the seriousness of this next phase of ’ ministry which will lead to the crucifixion.
In the early church it was a time of preparation where those interested in joining this “Jesus” movement who would dedicate their lives to prayer, education and self-discovery leading up to their baptism at Sunrise on Easter morning.
More recently the Lenten discipline has been to “give something up” for Lent. Although meant to heighten ones focus and meditation on who God has called us to be, all too often this practice has simply become a short term “New Year’s Resolution” combined with a modicum of self-righteous piety.
For me, Lent starts with the Ash Wednesday words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” It is a stark reminder of our mortality and, lest we tend to get too full of ourselves, a reminder that salvation is a gift from God. The fact that the ashes used to make the cross on ones forehead as these words are spoken come from burning the palm branches from last year’s Palm Sunday, are a poignant reminder of how quickly our Hosanna’s can become cries of “Crucify” when we find our personal kingdoms threatened by the call to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Lent is a journey down out of our mountain tops of piety and down into the dusty streets where the needs of neighbor stare us in the face as we are called to live as brothers and sisters in the family of God. Lent is a time to look into the mirror of God and see the reality of who we are and then learn to celebrate the gift of salvation that comes into our lives.
Lent is also a time to focus on our call to be brothers and sisters in the family of God that stretches beyond the boundaries of denomination, religion and faith tradition, and embraces the whole family of God that in creation was called good. Lent is coming face to face with the salvation that comes from God as a gift, pure gift, for you and I and for all people, and asks the question, “Now that you don’t have to do anything, what are you going to do?” Lent is that journey that helps us figure out what it is we are going to do in this vast and diverse family of God.