Even though I am not a member of a fellowship that adheres to any organized observance of Lent, I must admit that this is one of my favorite times of year.
The way I understand it, the Lenten tradition is intended to bathe believers in the grim reality of what our great salvation cost the one who came to seek and to save the lost. For my part, I cannot seem to separate his sacrifice from my salvation at any time of year, and woe to me if I ever do.
That being said, since 1999, it has been my great privilege to cover the Community Lenten Services provided annually by the cooperative work of the Red Willow County Ministerial Association.
Each year, in fact each Friday during Lent, my stomach kind of stutters as I quickly jot down key points made by the speaker. When I set myself down in front of my computer screen on those long Friday afternoons, I wrestle with the question, "Where do I start?"
Christianity is not chemistry. Nor is it calculus or even simple math.
Although there are central tenets to Christianity, apart from which one is not a Christian, there is no precise equation (i.e., 2+2=4), that changes us from sinners to saints. Which is as it should be. As Jesus said to the Samaritan woman in John 4:23 "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship him."
Every Christian's journey is deeply personal and Spirit-led. Each foray into the Word -- whether through independent Bible study, during a Sunday morning sermon or even during the frequent sidewalk philosophy classes that spring up without warning during the course of my work-week -- reveals another precious nugget of truth pertinent in the here and now. In fact, more often than not, it is a nugget of truth that is imperative, right here and right now. Just as the parent of a toddler knows if their youngster is hungry, angry, tired or just plain lonely and responds accordingly, so too, does our Father in heaven respond in accord with our need, whether we are hungry, angry, tired or just plain lonely.
Over the course of these many years of covering the Community Lenten services, I have heard accomplished speakers, men and women well-versed in the Word; passionate pleas; gentle admonitions; heart-wrenching testimonies and beautiful music -- all offered as acts of worship in front of audiences large and small.
My pre-publication trepidation is based on my knowledge that each of us takes something unique unto ourselves from any sermon. The fear is that in seeking to impart the whole of the message to our newspaper readers, I may miss the presenter's key message, since each heart is tuned to a "different" frequency. After all, each presenter has poured heart and soul into the lesson, in response to the leading of the Holy Spirit. In feature news stories like these as well as in straight or hard news stories, writers must take great pains not to inject themselves into the story. Much more easily said than done.
Nevertheless, in virtually every service I have been blessed with another nugget of truth relevant right here and right now that has strengthened me on my faith journey.
Another of the blessings that is mine during this season of Lent is the time of fellowship that follows the homily.
Suddenly, everyone is swept into a room where a feast is set before us. There, we are no longer Catholic, Protestant, non-denominational or "Red-Letter Only" believers. We are brothers and sisters, seated at a common table, acquainting or reacquainting ourselves as we dive into a favorite casserole or simple sandwich. We typically don't delve into deep religious discussions, compare traditions or critique the preaching minister. Rather, we minister to one another simply by listening to one another, fulfilling Paul's admonition in Romans 12: 15 by "Rejoic(ing) with those who rejoice, and weep(ing) with those who weep."
This is as it should be. This is the briefest taste of the unity that Jesus prayed we would have in his prayer found in John 17:20 and 21, "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, Father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me."
Thankfully, there are still a few more lessons to learn this year, a few more nuggets to gather, and a few more mealtimes to share. I'll store them up, as I always do, until the opportunity comes again.
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galatians 3:28 (NKJV)
Author's note: Another opportunity to "do lunch" unfolds later this week with the McCook Mobile Pack for Feed My Starving Children. This will be my second mobile pack, so as a seasoned veteran I thank all packers in advance for doing what you could, when you could, where you could. I'll see you there!
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.