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By KEITH ANDERSON
I’m often asked what the Season of Lent is all about, mostly because the word doesn’t appear anywhere in scripture. Well, in brief, Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and marks 40 days before Easter (excluding Sundays). I suppose the number parallels the various stories in scripture that entail 40 days — the flood, 40 years of wandering in the Sinai, Moses, Elijah and Jesus each fasting 40 days, etc. In modern times, the Season of Lent is a time to reflect on one’s relationships with God, self and others, while considering Jesus’ final steps towards the cross.
A professor of mine often said, “You can’t get to Easter without first passing through Good Friday and Christ’s death on the cross.” There can be no new life without something first being put to death. When you think about it, this is the very act of forgiving and being forgiven. One has to put aside pride, the sense of “being right,” one’s need to be in control, in order to ask to be forgiven. While difficult or often illogical, this is the path Christ took in order that we might follow in his steps. Just imagine, Jesus put his will aside, a righteous man, in order for each of us to find the strength and capacity to muster the faith that a new life and a restored relationship might emerge from the most difficult of circumstances.
It takes some effort for us to grasp the awkwardness of Jesus’ journey to the cross, especially as he foretold his demise on several occasions to his closest followers. It’s much easier to understand the disciples’ confusion and resistance as Jesus was not only going to die, but would suffer horrifically at the hands of the religious leaders of that day. New Life must have been the furthest thing from their minds.
And so we reflect in these 40 days. Some people choosing to ‘give something up’: things like chocolate, sweets, alcohol. I had one colleague who gave up listening to the radio in the car. Others choosing to add a discipline facilitating a closer walk with God. There’s no right or wrong here, just lots of historical practices that have shaped the lives of saints down through the ages. My advice is simply this, find something that feeds your soul, draws attention to Jesus’ death on the cross, while also examining the various relationships in life. Consider what needs to die in order for new life to emerge for you and the other. And let us proclaim together with Peter, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
The Rev. Keith Anderson is pastor of First Lutheran Church.
Perspectives is a regular column sponsored and written by members of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association.