An Invitation to Lent 2017 - Hillside Covenant Church
Lent is the 40-day season that leads us to Easter. As such it follows Jesus into the desert of His temptations, suffering, and death, and it ends on the mountain peak of His resurrection. As winter precedes and prepares for spring, so Lent precedes and prepares us for a fresh resurrection. In the season of Lent we are invited to follow Jesus into the desert where once again we hear our Father’s invitation to “come and die”—die to all that is false in us. Die to all that is untrue. Die to all that is resisting His ocean-love for us.
There are two ways to follow Jesus into the desert. We can stare at the desert or we can stare at Jesus. On the one hand, staring at the desert means to focus on ourselves, concentrate on self-examination, find areas to name and lift up in repentance, and focus on the disciplines of giving up and going without. There is definite value in these exercises, and Lent is an appropriate season to practice them. On the other hand, staring at Jesus means we fix our eyes on Him in His story with a dogged and persistent focus. In doing this we give up the design to discover what is deficient in us and instead become taken with the beauty and power of Jesus in His desert and suffering.
A beautiful thing happens when we choose to stare at Jesus. He stares back at us. And when He does, the falsehood or untruth that is in us gets flushed up to the surface of our consciousness without us having to go fishing for it. Jesus’ gaze brings it up and out into the open. And there, continuing in His gaze (which never causes shame or fear), we find it easy to repent (turn away) from these leeches and parasites, because the beauty of Jesus clarifies our hearts’ true desire. Compared to Jesus, these imposters of the soul are ugly and lifeless. In the presence of these sin-squatters, the urge to run and cling to Jesus rises up forcibly within us. Repentance becomes joyous escape and freedom!
We are encouraging our Hillside family this Lenten season to stare deeply into the story of Jesus in the desert where He was tempted by the devil and where absolutely everything hung in the balance. This amazing story is told in two places in the New Testament: Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. We encourage each other to read or think about this story every day of Lent, whether when rising from bed or going to bed, or driving in traffic. Perhaps some of us might memorize the text itself. We can use our imaginations to enter into the story and watch Jesus in action. We can write about it in journals or letters. We can include this story in our prayers. We will include it as a part of each Sunday worship service in Lent, using silent time in the services to focus on this key story in Jesus’ life.
If we stare at this story for the next forty days, somewhere along the way we will find Jesus staring back at us, and suddenly His suffering will line up with our suffering and His victory over His temptations will become our victory over our temptations. We will die with Him afresh in order than we might rise with Him afresh over anything that is keeping us back and holding us down.
Come along with us!!