Life can feel like one long journey. As we travel on our way, we experience ups, downs, roadblocks, detours, and adventures. We experience joys, and we experience loss. We are occasionally determined and we occasionally wander. The way forward is not always clear, not even our destination always, but we journey ever onward anyway.
A journey. What a wonderful metaphor for life. It encompasses practically all we could ever hope to experience in this life, as well as all the trials we will face. No wonder this metaphor is the heart of so many stories of the Bible, from Noah who journeyed 40 years in the ark, the Israelites who journeyed 40 years in the wilderness, and Jesus who journeyed 40 days in the wilderness before beginning his earthly ministry.
Forty seems to be the key number – a number that probably isn’t as accurate as it is symbolic, simply meaning a long time. A long journey, plenty long in fact for whoever is on it to really feel it.
How fitting then, that we apply this metaphor to our Lenten “journey.” Lent is a 40 day journey towards Easter. We embrace the wilderness of our human experience, along with all of its challenges and hardships. Like the Israelites who are forced to wander for 40 years before entering the promised land to deal with their sinfulness (imagine a 40 year time-out!) we are called to face our sin head on in our own wilderness for 40 days before we celebrate the resurrection dawn on Easter Sunday and the new life that is ours in Christ.
But the wilderness isn’t all bad. Although the Israelites complained and suffered hardships along the way, God was present with them every step of the journey, protecting them and providing for them. They were given holy bread from Heaven (manna). And they formed a community of God’s followers who were instructed to care for one another.
Likewise, we never face our journey alone. God promises to accompany us every step of the way, and has called us to be part of a community, the body of Christ, so that we can care for one another and those we meet along our way. Our Lenten journeys do not have to be depressing. They can be time for renewal. Of springs of water and life in the dessert. Of God-sightings along the way. And most importantly, the cross of Christ which we follow, which we are called to take up and follow, for the sake of this world that God loves so much.
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday on March 1st. As you prepare for the journey ahead, you are encouraged to find strength, comfort, hope, healing, and purpose in your place as part of the body of Christ here at St Mark. We are continuing the tradition of our Wednesday Night Lenten Soup Dinners, followed by a study of Luther’s Small Catechism (in celebration of the 500th anniversary of the reformation this year). Our Wednesday evening Worship service will be at 7:30, and will focus on the different parts of the catechism.
You are also encouraged to focus on your own devotional practice during this season of Lent, whether you take up a new spiritual practice, or practice fasting, or simplifying your life by giving something up, taking care of yourself along the way is a crucial part of the journey.
Blessings on your journey!