We are now just 2 1/2 weeks from celebrating the Risen Christ. The Lenten season is coming to an end, and the penitential activities such as fasting, will give way to feasting and praising God with shouts of "Alleluia"! Not only am I looking forward to a large cup of coffee, which I gave up for lent, I am most excited about the opportunity to preach on the the resurrection, the compete defeat of death, and triumph of the Power of the Kingdom of Heaven!
But... we are still in the season of Lent. While the light is at the end of the tunnel, there are still 18 days left. 18 days to embrace this somber valley in the rhythm of the church calendar. It seems strange to some to speak of embracing "somber" and "penitent" times. After all, we live in a culture that insists that we live from mountain top to mountain top. Cries of, "You deserve to be happy!" and "Treat yourself!" fill social media with stale memes of self-love and hearts turned in on themselves. Lent stands in stark contrast to these ideals. Lent is about denial. It is aboutlosing yourself rather than finding yourself. Its about turning the heart away from an inward focus. And that is not a bad thing. Its actually a really holy and good thing!
Understanding our identity can only be grasped in our relationship with our Creator. We are His. That is the fullness of our identity! Nothing else captures who we are. Not our wealth or lack of it. Not our education level, our job title, our marital status, our political affiliations, our our citizenship. Not that these things don't shape our lives, or add substance to our thinking and paradigms. They do. But these things are either redeemed in Christ and made subject to our status as Children of God, or they rule our identities and becomeour idols.
Let me explain what I mean: If I fully embrace my identity as His, then no matter what my job title is here on Earth, I understand it in terms of how I am serving my Daddy's Kingdom. Am I a teacher? Then I teach for the Kingdom, no matter what type of school I am in. Am I a mechanic? Then I serve the people in my community, honoring the Kingdom of God in the integrity of my work and the love I have for my customer. You see? Belong to Him as His child becomes my identity, and everything else is simply a means by which the Grace of God can pour out of me into the world.
Lent helps us let go of those things that would rob us of our true identity. Fasting, praying, self-denial, and reflecting on our brokenness apart from Christ leads us to a deeper hunger and yearning for the joy of the embrace of the nail scarred hands. When Easter finally comes, and we have journeyed through the valley of Lent, we effectively lose our self, or at least our false self. But we find our true identity in Christ, and in Christ we no longer worry about ourselves. Our hearts have been turned outward and upward. Outward towards others, and upward towards our mighty, Triune God!
So embrace these last 18 days. Long for Easter and prepare for Christ's magnificent return!