In the middle of February, we will transition from the season of Epiphany to the season of Lent. I am always struck by the visual differences between the seasons. During Advent and Christmas, the church is decorated with a Christmas tree and with greenery and candles. Stars hang over our heads through Epiphany. And it all goes away come Ash Wednesday. The church is sparsely adorned; the candelabras are removed. The cross is draped in purple, the color of the season. Lent is a season for reflection and introspection. It is a time to turn to God, and think about how our lives need to change. Having the church less decorated—having the cross draped—helps us to keep our focus on God and on the cross.
Where can our lives change? Can we deepen our faith through prayer and Bible study? Can we reach out to those longing to hear the Word? Can we help those that may not have all the resources that we do? Can we gossip less and listen more? Can we try to better understand someone’s point of view, even if it is the opposite of ours? Can we stop and think before we speak or post? Can we help the ministry of First Lutheran by giving—or even giving more—of our time, our talents and our riches?
In his homily on the Feast of the Epiphany a few weeks ago, Pope Francis encouraged those listening to imitate the actions of the Magi, who were willing to set out and take risks in order to find Jesus. Referring to the star they followed, the Pope said, “His star demands a decision to take up the journey and to advance tirelessly on our way. It demands that we free ourselves from useless burdens and unnecessary extras that only prove a hindrance, and accept unforeseen obstacles along the map of life.” He asked those in attendance which star they were following, noting that some stars we follow may be bright, but don’t point the way. “So it is with success, money, career, honors and pleasures when these become our life”, he said, calling them meteors that blaze momentarily but quickly burn out and fade away. “The Lord’s star, however, may not always overwhelm by its brightness, but it is always there: it takes you by the hand in life and accompanies you.”
What burdens are weighing us down, preventing us from moving forward in our journey? What can we place on the Lord’s shoulders and stop worrying about them? What stars are we currently focused on? What can we do this Lent to keep our focus on the cross?
We know that the good works we perform do not get us into heaven. We know that we are saved simply by the grace of God, and by the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. But knowing we are saved by faith, we are free to use our lives doing good works, serving others and proclaiming the Gospel.
As we begin this Lenten season, let us look at where we are on this journey. If we’ve gone astray, let us ask God to lead us back to where He would have us go. Let us look for ways to strengthen our faith—and it doesn’t have to be by giving something up for Lent. Attend the midweek Holden Evening Prayer services. Join the Confirmation class in reading the Bible in 90 days. Talk more to God and listen to what the Spirit may tell you. Let us look for opportunities to serve others—in our families, our workplaces, our church, our community and the world.
Let us remember that Jesus is the light of the world—the light that no darkness can overcome. He walks with you on the journey, even when you forget that He is there. “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
In +His service,