The Church is a Lenten people. The Church is neither overly optimistic about the future (“things are always getting better and better, every day and in every way”), nor is she overly pessimistic (“the whole thing is going to hell in a handbasket, so why bother?”). Lent teaches us the truth about ourselves and the truth about Jesus, the Lord and Head of the Church. That truth is this: we are sinners who never go through a day, a week, a month, or a year in which we do not need to repent. That is the truth about us. But we do not stop there, because the truth about Jesus, the Truth who is Jesus, has been revealed to us. That truth is this: the darkness of Lent gives way to the new light of Easter, because the temptation, fasting, suffering, and dying of Jesus give way to an empty grave. Weeping at the death of the Lord gives way to rejoicing at His resurrection.
It is no coincidence that we move from the season of Epiphany, which is the season of Jesus’ appearing to all nations and peoples, right into the season of Lent, which is the season where we see what sort of Savior Jesus is. He is not a Savior who simply teaches what we ought to do to be saved. He is not primarily our exemplar, who declares God’s will to us and does it perfectly. That is the Jesus of Mormonism and various modern theologies. The Jesus who is the Savior at the heart of Christianity does not tell us stuff we have to do; He does something that actually saves us from the darkness where we sit (Isaiah 9:2; Matthew 4:16). In Lent Jesus appears to us in the strangest, most unexpected way: on a Roman cross outside Jerusalem, forsaken by His friends and followers, forsaken, even, by God the Father. As we move through these forty days (from March 5 until April 20, minus the Sundays), from dust and ashes to holy Palms, a holy Supper, a holy Cross, a holy Rest, and, finally, a holy Resurrection, we think about what this all means for us, in the year of our Lord, 2014. Continue reading