Focusing on the last 24 hours of Jesus’ life is literally looking into the darkest hours of his life. The last supper he ate, the promises of support but then betrayal and abandonment by the disciples, the sham trial, the use of government power to kill a leader, and the crucifixion itself. It is a very depressing series of events that could only have one conclusion. With so much weighing down on Jesus, death seems the only conclusion. And, for us, going through those events again during Lent, it can make our worship services heavy and somber. Jesus’ last 24 hours are anything but the words from Life of Brian, “Always look on the bright side of life.” Instead, Jesus’ last days are dark and hopeless. Even Jesus prayed, “remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.”
Jesus’ prayer is our window into the deeper reality of those days. What did God ultimately want? What does God want for us? It wasn’t what popular wisdom teaches us in times of pain and suffering. Popular wisdom teaches that God does not give us more than we can handle. Yet, even Jesus couldn’t handle those last days. Look at his prayer. And, what happened on Good Friday? He died. Popular wisdom teaches that God helps those who help themselves. How could Jesus have helped himself? He was powerless to stop the currents against him. Popular wisdom tells us to keep a positive attitude. Really? How would that have helped Jesus on the cross?
What God wants is for us to understand the path Jesus took, the lengths he would go, in order to defeat sin and death for us. We study Jesus’ path. We take Jesus’ path, because if we don’t, our message to a world full of people suffering, doubting, struggling, hungry, and oppressed is empty and meaningless. If we don’t understand the depths of pain of the person we call Savior and Lord, how will we be able to offer anything more than popular platitudes to our family, friends, neighbors, the world? We study Jesus’ path, and we take that path through Lent so that our ministry may accompany others through the joys and sorrows of life.
Only through death comes new life. That is the message of Lent. That is why we give up something. We stop harmful behaviors. We seek a different, healthier path for our lives. We let go of past ways of living or doing church so that those things can die and God can open us up to new possibilities for both. It is only when we let go, take up our cross, as Jesus said, and follow his way, that we find new life and ministry.
Some opportunities for worship and service are coming up over the next few months that I’d like to get on your radar and calendar. During Lent, all are invited to a 30-minute service of prayer and reflection on Wednesday nights at 7:30 p.m. During Holy Week, April 1-8, we have our Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter celebration services. I hope you will join us as we travel from darkness to light and celebrate the good news of our faith, that indeed Christ is risen and offers new life to all.
Beyond Holy Week, be on the lookout for other events. We celebrate with our confirmands on Confirmation Sunday, April 29th. May 5th will be an All Church Ministry Day during which we need our members to come clean up our church property and to get involved in a home repair project through HomeFront. At the end of June, we are hosting Vacation Bible School. Significant changes are in the works from previous years so that VBS becomes a new outreach of our church to the children of our broader community as well as our own children. I hope you will find ways to share the love of Christ before, during or after that important week.
Thank you for your courage to journey through Lent and to delve more deeply into what it means to follow the way of the cross. May we continue to be the body of Christ to each other, traveling through the joys and sorrows of life together and offering God’s love, grace and hope to a world in need of Good News.