Ash Wednesday last week marked the beginning of Lent. Yesterday was the first Sunday in Lent. Lent always feels like the advent of spring to me: the time when you begin to believe that winter might loosen its icy grip on the world and have hope that flowers and other lovely things will break through the snow. So it is ironic that the first Sunday in Lent came during the coldest week of the year for much of the US.
Winter has always felt like a kind of death, especially in Ohio. The cold, the snow, the unrelenting-ness of it. The chill seeps into your bones until they ache and it seems like you will never be warm again. In northeast Ohio we also had a lack of sunshine to go with the cold. Day after day of clouds and gloom.
Lent comes as a reminder that, even if we can’t see it, the days are ever so gradually getting longer and warmer. That the sun is coming to warm the ground and prepare it for those first buds: snowdrops and daffodils. New life is growing beneath the surface, ready to burst through at the proper time. Even in the grip of the coldest, snowiest winters, Lent comes with its reminder of life in the midst of death.
This is the power of the cross and the power of our Savior Jesus Christ. In the midst of gloom and frozen-ness, in the face of death on the cross, Jesus offers new life. We may not always be able to see it, but it is there, beneath the surface, waiting for the Son to appear again so new life can burst forth.
During Lent we wait and prepare. Because if we are hoping for new life to bloom in our lives, in our hearts, we have to prepare the soil. We have to be sure we are fertile ground in which the seed can take root, spring forth, and grow. Lent reminds us that, even if we feel frozen and dead, Christ can bring us new life. It is the gift of a love that is stronger than the cross. It is the gift of a God that is more powerful than death.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. I Corinthians 1:18, 23-25.
It is the beginning of Lent. How is God calling the frozen and dead things in you to new life? What can you do to prepare?