Rev. Brady Finnern
"Ughhhhh...more church?" I recall the exact moment those whining words left my mouth one Ash Wednesday afternoon in high school. My parents had just told me that we were going to worship that night. I was a bit selfish in those days (now, I just hide it better) and in my mind I lamented over a list of things that, to me, were more important. "I'm so busy with basketball, I have to get ready for track season, homework is piling up, and I just want to get outside and hang out with friends! Now you want me to take an hour of my precious time and go to church?"
These conversations are happening in many households between young people and their parents this Lent. Each year it begs the question, why go to worship in the middle of the week during Lent? What is the purpose when I am already so busy? Why should I gather with old people who sing old songs and rarely use any kind of modern technology? Sure, most of us understand that Lent is about repentance, focusing on the cross, preparing for Easter, and meditation on God's Word, but why take another night to do it? The answer is simple: to be filled with the gifts of Jesus.
Each day we are filled with different things: some good things and some not so good things. When I head to my local gas station for my daily soda, I am filled with the joy of different friendships, but I am also filled with sugar, carbonation, and empty calories. When I arrive at school I'm filled with knowledge and wisdom, but also the feelings of insecurity and pain from other people's words and reactions. When I sit at my computer, I'm filled with the news of the world in an instant, but also with unhealthy webpages and meaningless relationships. When I attend college, I'm filled with a top notch education, but also the fear of future jobs and the instability of life after college.
This is why we need to be filled with the gifts of Christ. Scripture is very clear that when we gather around Christ's gifts--Word and Sacrament--we are filled with His benefits. When Christ is present in the preached Word (Romans 10:17, 2 Timothy 3:16), our Baptism (Romans 6:4-5), Absolution (John 20:22), and the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:28), we are filled with the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, life, and salvation (Small Catechism)--not partly filled like we are after an appetizer at a restaurant, but completely filled with His holiness that gives us a taste of heaven here today.
We are filled all the day long, and since nothing can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8), His gifts are always there for us and they are free to us sinners. While you are busy this Lent, the gifts of Christ are there for you. When you have every excuse to not to go worship, Christ's gifts are there for you. When you skip a week here or there, the gifts of Christ are there for you. This Lent the gifts are offered to you more than once a week, thanks be to God. Go and receive.
Rev. Brady Finnern is the pastor at Messiah Lutheran Church in Sartell, Minnesota. He is also a shotput and discus coach.
Created: February 15th, 2016