The discipline of Lent is meant to remind us of what is important, of the fragility of life and the reality of our mortality. It was traditionally a time of fasting to prepare for baptism at Easter. Those early Christian converts studied and prepared for three years, before their 40-day Lenten fast.
My first Lent as an Episcopalian was life changing for me, but all I did was give up Diet Pepsi. It was difficult. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be there in the early church on Easter morning being baptized after preparing for three years, and then fasting for 40 days.
I also wonder what it felt like for them after the season of Easter was over. There they were back in the routines of life. Did they feel let down? Was it a difficult adjustment?
This place called ‘regular life’ is our home. The Good news is that Lent prepares us for Easter, but Easter prepares us for regular life. It teaches us how we are to live while we are waiting for, ‘the Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.’
The most important thing we must do is set aside fear like Mary in our Gospel reading at the Great Vigil on Sunday. The first thing the Angel said to the women when they entered the tomb was “Do not be afraid.” When Jesus saw Mary and Mary he also said, “Do not be afraid.”
Our world and our culture are soaked with fear. Fear can raise a lot of money for politicians and sell a lot of books for people who claim to be speaking for God, but our Lord has told us not to be afraid.
The first Bible verses we learn as children included these messages.
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” ~ Psalm 23:4
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~ Philippians 4:6-7
“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.” ~ Romans 8:38-39
The truth is that despite all the uncertainty of life, humanity is in the same place we were 6 months ago, 6 years ago and 600 years ago. And that place is in desperate need of the truth that Lent is supposed to teach us; that life is precious and fragile, that we are mortal and so we must live.
As the Psalmist said, “all flesh is as grass. The grass withers and the flower fades away.” None of us is getting out of this alive. But we can decide to live in faith – live without fear – live with the knowledge that no one – no pandemic – no one can separate you from the love of God.
Living in view of our mortality is possible because of Easter. Not that we could ever comprehend it, (how do you comprehend someone who is beyond death – beyond decay – someone who is somehow in this world and also in the next at the same time) but that we can live in hope and faith that death and fear will not have the last word.
See you in church,
Fr. Tom +