I heard someone comment recently that it seems like we have been in Lent for the whole past year. In the pandemic, we have had to give up some things, we have had to make sacrifices, we have experienced various degrees of suffering. Many of us have been praying more, reading the Bible more, giving more to help others. It is like we have been practicing Lenten disciplines all year long. So what do we do for Lent this year? Do we ask ourselves to give up more, to make deeper sacrifices, redouble on our disciplines? Maybe.
What if we look at Lent from a different angle this year, to see if there might be something we have been overlooking that we can focus on this year? What I have in mind is the often-overlooked way we number Lent. Many of us simply say that, just as Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days after His baptism, so we enter into the season of Lent for forty days. We have a hymn that is called, “Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days.” Forty days has a nice ring to it, biblically speaking. The problem is that there are actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. There are forty days in Lent, plus six Sundays. Sunday is the day of Resurrection. “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” (John 20:1, NRSV) Christians gather to worship on Sundays because it is the Day of Resurrection. Every Sunday is like a little Easter. Which means that we have six little Easters tucked away among the forty days of Lent.
What if we focus this year of highlighting the six little Easters, looking for how the stone has been, or is being, removed? Looking for signs of hope and celebrating victories of love and rejoicing in evidence of Christ’s saving grace.
As the coronavirus infection continues to spread to more people and more people, affecting nearly every family and neighborhood with fear and suffering, we will also be having more and more people vaccinated. Let’s not overlook the vaccinations and all the efforts to bring healing!
As political rhetoric and media hype continue to fan the fires of division and mistrust, bringing disillusionment and even despair about advancing the common good, there will be people coming together to feed the hungry and shelter the homeless and care for the forgotten. Let’s not ignore the everyday acts that build goodwill and show love!
As the architecture of white supremacy continues to create inequities, reinforce racial biases, and minimize injustices, relegating precious children of God into categories of contrived differences, there will also be determined efforts to dismantle that same architecture. Let’s not overlook how efforts for racial justice and impetus toward beloved community are gaining momentum through the pandemic.
Don’t miss the little Easters! Jesus is risen, and is on the move this Lent. Instead of dwelling only on the burdens that He comes to bear, let’s also notice the victories where we marvel at the strength of His saving love, at work in, through, and among us.
Grace and Peace,