Some words from our pastor, Rev. Sam Wilde
Just as Advent is a season of preparation for Christmas, Lent is a season of preparation for Easter. During these 40 days from Ash Wednesday to the Saturday following Good Friday (and Sundays are not counted for traditionally they are days when the “fast” was not kept), we symbolically join Jesus on his journey of 40 days in the wilderness.
Lent is typically a time of self-denial and reflection. Practices of fasting or atonement are meant to bring us closer to God. Just like anything we have done many times, however, we can “do” a season without truly being present inside of it. We can also do religious things because we feel we have to or because we always have or because following the liturgical calendar is familiar, comforting, expected or “just what we do.”
Now is a wonderful moment to engage the season of Lent in a fresh, life-affirming way. During Lent, we are going to focus on forgiveness and I would like to invite you to fast from unforgiveness as a Lenten practice. That’s right! I am asking you to give up unforgiveness for 40 days! That will probably be harder for most of us than giving up chocolate or ice cream.
Here is the question of Lent: what is between you and God? There may be many things between us and a deeper relationship with God. For this year’s Lent, we are going to look at the way unforgiveness comes between us and that spiritual communion. We’ll think about three specific ways to forgive: forgiving ourselves, forgiving others, forgiving God. We’ll have the opportunity to think about God’s forgiveness of us and Jesus’ words of forgiveness for those who killed him.
We begin with Ash Wednesday, a space and time to recognize our human impermanence—but also God’s immense love.
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.” Psalm 103, 10-14
Choosing to forgive becomes an act of increasing our faith. We must have more faith in our own ability to love and our Christ-like compassion in order to forgive those who have hurt us. We must have more faith in God’s forgiveness and acceptance of us in order to forgive ourselves our mistakes and imperfections. We must have more faith in God in order to truly understand that the work of “revenge” isn’t ours (whether we actively seek it or simply harbor a grudge for years that keeps us resentful and tied to an old event).
If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone. Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12: 18-19
As we begin this journey together, I encourage you to take some quiet time to reflect upon any ways in which you feel unforgiveness—and to write them down. Make a list. You can also notice during each day how quickly a resentment or a grudge can arise, even a small one. It may be that you have an area of unforgiveness that feel insurmountable; we will share around that during Lent also. Remember, most importantly, that we don’t forgive others in our name. We forgive them in the name of Christ. That is, the Christ in you is capable of immense, otherwise impossible acts of forgiveness. And Christ will be with you, walking beside you, as we explore this corner of the wilderness. Consider this a time for experimenting. 40 days of experiments in forgiveness. We will do it together as a community. Let’s support and encourage one another as we go along. Say during fellowship time, “how is it going for you forgiving people?”
It will be a hard, wonderful adventure! The only kind worth taking.