The Puritans would say there is no need for Lent, for a time of “coming back” to Jesus for the Christian. After all, aren’t we supposed to be daily, and hourly, and minute-by-minute walking with Jesus?
But, though I count myself a Puritan, particularly of the Pilgrim variety, I am always grateful for the season of Lent. For the deeper devotion it really does offer. Especially for the corporate life of the church.
I think back to so many Ash Wednesday evenings, where, in the darkened, penitential light of candles and shadows, we could invite all who were ready to walk forward and kneel at the steps before the Cross and commit their lives to Christ. And, so many did, hesitantly, earnestly, sincerely take that profound “leap of faith.”
Jesus calls us “o’er the tumult of our life’s wild, restless seas.” In the midst of the toughest, strangest, most difficult times, Jesus calls us to deepest places of our troubled hearts and wounded spirits, saying He will meet us there.
And, it behooves us to go to those most hurt places, to meet Him there, and so to BE PRESENT when He comes.
The dear Lord has given me two places to be present this Lent. One, with Molly and sometimes others of you, on the Minneapolis northside for “church” with our fellow Christians of Zion Baptist Church. And, praise God, how they “do” church. The Spirit comes smiling into their worship from the first moments and the small choir, hands raised, eyes closed, sway back and forth singing to the Lord as they call Him to come. And, I think He can’t resist, for He is there in the shining faces of those people as they come, first to join in song. Then Pastor Brian Herron welcomes us all with a lighted face and a wide hands open invitation to see and seek the Spirit, in joy.
It is a moving spirit of love that calls us to be together. On Sunday last “Minister Rhonda” preaches. Young, agile, and deeply confessional, she opens her own heart to Jesus, and to us. “I have stuff,” she admits honestly, deep hurt, down inside. “I hold grudges,” she cried out, repenting. She prayed for healing, for power, for joy in Jesus. We all felt her tears, and shared them. Oh, we were “one in the Spirit, and one in the Lord,” and went home that Lenten Sunday that not only honored “Women’s Month” but drew us all together in the joy of Jesus.
The other great time, for me, came on the following Thursday, when on the Patio of Edina’s Hilltop restaurant our motley “Dawn Patrol” gathered to read the Bible, share our lives, and be led into deep recess of hurt, as we read the chilling account of Jesus’ condemnation to be crucified for us and heard His words, so humble, as we gathered at the Cross.
It was a mystical time for us all – some 20 of us – as we opened our own lives telling our stories, speaking our gratitude, and listening to each other.
When it was done, no one wanted to leave, as little clusters of tender talk formed, as twos and threes slowly made it to the door, and into that so-blessed day.
Lent gives us that chance, and how gratefully we took it, as renewed and strengthened Christians.
May you be so strengthened by Him, and renewed in heart and hope in these Lenten days.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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ARTHUR ROUNER MINISTRIES