If you’re anything like me, your childhood church attendance was more forced than chosen. My mother decided where we went to church. She was the Christian parent. Dad, not so much.
She chose the local Lutheran church. My sister Tessie, my brother Freddie, and I, all went to Sunday school and church there. That’s where we were all three baptized, when I was nine years old. Hope Lutheran is where we all went to Vacation Bible School every summer, and Tessie and I went to youth group meetings during the school year. I even attended two years of catechism classes there.
However, in all the years of all that church activity, I never once attended an Easter service.
Our family (my dad) always opted instead to go somewhere – usually Penticton, British Columbia – for a picnic. My mother made THE BEST potato salad and fried chicken. Dyed Easter eggs provided the annual pastel-tinted potato salad. Penticton’s Game Farm, and a place with go-carts and bumper-cars were the perennial stops. Never church. Not on Easter.
My husband, Lance, and I were married for almost five years before we even heard of Lent. Like I said, when I was growing up, Easter at our house didn’t include church, and Lance grew up in the Methodist church. His family might have gone to church on Easter, but the idea of a Lenten season wasn’t even on the radar.
At our second Lutheran church in our married life, we were there long enough to be introduced to Lenten midweek services and soup suppers (a meal right before the service).
Christ Lutheran Church had a new minister. A second-career man, and retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel. His first service there was on Ash Wednesday. The beginning of Lent.
Pastor McCrillis wore black and dark purple. (Hmm. Not the bright white I was accustomed to.) He had what I considered the perfect Ash Wednesday voice. A little ominous, really. I certainly paid attention!
Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out
As the weeks of Lent passed, I grew increasingly aware of the reason people even need church. The midweek services brought me to my knees! Kleenex was non-negotiable.
Like the people who went out to the desert to hear John the Baptist speak, I, too, was drawn by the Word of God. No one LIKES hearing they are a sinner, even though it’s the truth. God demands holiness. We are so not holy. We could never say or do enough “good” things to make up for the bad things we say and do. Never.
It’s oddly freeing to know where you stand with God. The Good News is that, not only can we not do anything to pay for our sins, but that there is no need. Jesus was willing – and able – to be our Perfect Substitute, to take all the punishment we deserve, I deserve, you deserve. Jesus paid for every sin ever committed, from Adam until now, through to the end, when He comes back for all believers, to take us with Him to heaven.
The Truth Hurts
Once your heart has been convicted, and the stinging reality that being a “good” person is NOT going to cut it with God, you’ll know. It is time, right now, to look at what is separating you from God. Sin.
Starting with Ash Wednesday, the season of Lent gives you six weeks to examine yourself. When you look at your sinful thoughts, words, and actions, it’s such a relief to repent of all that. Own up to your sinful life and TURN AROUND. Turn to Jesus for the forgiveness He won for you on the cross. Turn away from the sinful life you’re leading, and away from the things a Holy God detests.
Confess to Him all your sins. Do it today. There is no need to wait for Ash Wednesday, or the season of Lent. These are man-made dates on the calendar, that just help Christians remind themselves how very, very important it is to look at our own broken and sinful hearts and lives, and repent.
It is also a chance for us to bring God’s Law and His Gospel squarely into focus. We can see the daily need WE have for God and his forgiveness, and it should spur us on to tell our unchurched friends and family about the powerful, tender mercy of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The set dates on the church calendar provide us with a finite window of opportunity, and a sense of urgency, to share the need for Christ with others. There will likely be a light supper prepared for you, beforehand, so you will have one less thing to do to get ready for the midweek services. Just go. Enjoy the fellowship of God’s family. Nourish your body, right before you nourish your soul.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.
I MUST Go
Ever since I found out about this beautiful, penitential season, I have been amazed at just how much I need it every year. Why? It’s certainly not because I am tracking my points with God – hoping desperately that He will notice my perfect attendance and give me an eternal Gold Star.
No, I go to remind myself that I AM – still – a sinful person, and I need God’s forgiveness today and every day, until I die.
Without fail, I learn something new each year. Every single year has a new “Ah-ha” moment.
If you have somehow never learned that we are all sinful from birth, and in need of forgiveness for the sin we DO and the good we DON’T DO, please, I urge you, go. Hear the Word of God. Confess your sins. Experience the grace and mercy of God for yourself.
Then go again the next week.
Do You Have To Give Something Up For Lent?
It’s not Biblically required. In fact, neither is the idea of a Lenten season, really.
Some folks feel they need to participate somehow in their salvation. They really want to DO something “for God,” like giving something up. A habit, a vice, a certain food. Frankly, when you’re spiritually dead, there is nothing you can do for God. Thank you, Jesus, for doing everything for us!
The only thing I want to “give up” for Lent is my time. Soup Supper at 6. Service at 7. I hope you’ll do the same! (Check your local times, wherever YOU are.)