The greatest tragedy in life is not what we suffer in life, it is what we miss.” - Archbishop Fulton Sheen
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On the Journey...
Monthly Insight From Pastor Phil Yoder
Another Lenten Season
By now, we are well on our way through another Lenten Season. Are you excited? Or does it make you yawn and long even more for the donuts you vowed to give up for 40 days? Some people ignore the seasons of the church calendar, while for others, they look forward to this season. It gives opportunity to reflect more intentionally on Jesus’ sufferings and death. And it is a good time to evaluate our own spiritual journey and walk with God.
Even though a 40-day period before Easter was practiced almost from the beginning of the early church, we in the Anabaptist tradition have not always paid much attention to Lent. It seemed a little too Catholic for many. The Anabaptist’s argument was that we should intently follow Jesus every day, not limit it to a 40-day period. And Jesus’ instruction was to “Take up your cross and follow me,” not just give up donuts and chocolate for a few days. That can hardly be equated with the kind of denial and suffering Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” And since Anabaptist roots are buried pretty deeply in suffering, many over the years have found no value in creating some sort of “imitation suffering” for 40 days. They found nothing in their experience of persecution and suffering to celebrate, nor anything they wanted to ever replicate.
But in recent times, many in our faith tradition have found meaning in observing Lent as a special season of the year. And I am one of them. I like to observe Lent, and the reason is that it draws me back to the story, to focus on the Passion Narrative of Jesus again every year. And an amazing thing has happened. Every year, I see new things in the story that I never saw before. Every year, I gain a new appreciation for Jesus and all He is doing to save this disaster we call the world. Every year I grow to love Jesus more. Every year, I stand in awe a little more of the greatness of Jesus, and know that we are one year closer to the time when Jesus will return to the earth and bring His Kingdom in all its fullness and glory. One thing is for sure, the focus of Lent must be on Jesus, and not on me and the piddly things I choose to give up.
Lent is a great opportunity to walk through that last week of Jesus’ earthly life with Him, taking note of what was yet important to Him at the end of His ministry, listening to His words for any sense of urgency, hearing last instructions to His disciples, finding last minute invitations to those who had not yet come to believe in Him and follow Him, and bringing our own hearts to find hope in those final words and deeds of our loving Lord that can help us on our journey through this world. There are so many valuable lessons in that week, as Jesus prepares His disciples to live faithfully when He is not physically with them anymore.
During our Lenten Worship this year, we will be noticing things that we find in groups of three (Three crosses, three denials, three cosmic signs, three people weeping, etc.). What is the significance of there being three? There doesn’t seem to be one pattern that fits all of the trifecta we find. For some, they represent a progression. And for others, they present 3 different perspectives on an object or event, representing (1) The Natural, (2) The World’s Perspective, and (3) God’s Perspective. God’s perspective is almost always hidden from the world, revealed only through eyes of Faith. But all of these “Threes” reveal spiritual treasures hidden from the world, but revealed to those who have learned to see and live from the perspective of faith in God.
Won’t you come and join us in worship this year and discover new insights into the old story, but most importantly, grow in your love for Jesus?
Written by Pastor Philip Yoder