Rev. Harrison Goodman
I hope you fail at Lent.
Jesus says when you fast, do not look gloomy sort of like I do when my wife tells me "When you take out the trash, don't forget the recycling too." It's not a question of if. It's a question of how. So during Lent, we usually end up talking about giving something up for a few weeks.
It usually sounds like one of two things. Either "aim low and you'll never be disappointed" or "New Year's Resolutions 2: This time I'm serious." In other words, we either give up something dumb like chocolate, roll our eyes at how backwards Christianity is, or use it as an excuse to try and make ourselves better people. Hear John the Baptist: "Jesus must increase, but I must decrease." Lent is not about you. Lent is about a Jesus willing to die for sinners. Lent is about the cross. If your practices in Lent are all focused inward, instead of towards that cross, you're doing it wrong.
A Lent spent giving up something you're not all that enamored with in the first place is just an empty motion--a Pharisaical prayer from the street corner that doesn't accomplish anything other than letting you tell yourself you outwardly followed a religion. Of course there's no reason to it. Of course you don't get anything from it other than a chance to wonder why it all matters anyway. That's because there was no Jesus in the whole practice.
Or maybe we could aim a little higher. Let's try and do something better with our time. Let's actually look at God's Law and find where we fall short. What are my idols? What are my pet sins? Could I maybe tackle those? Don't get me wrong. A Lent that is nothing more than a Christianized New Year's resolution won't save you. But hopefully you'll try it anyway and fail. Then you'll see the truth. We don't know how bad we are until we have tried very hard to be good. Jesus died for failures. Jesus died for you. A Lent that points us away from our egos and our sins is a Lent that draws us outside of ourselves and shows us Jesus. He bore your sins and failures, your ego and your death upon a cross. I hope you fail so hard at Lent you die inside. Then, I hope you receive the crucified Jesus to make you live.
Rev. Harrison Goodman serves as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Carroll, Nebraska.
Created: February 23rd, 2016