I seem to be getting back into writing articles for our local newspaper, The Border Watch.
This one was published today, with the editor titling it ‘Easter A Season To Focus On God’.
Maybe I’ll start working on titles as well.
Next week I’ve got some ideas arising from a story about a man who turned a first-class plane ticket into 300 free lunches.
Years and years ago, I was approached in a supermarket aisle by a lady who was clearly unhappy. She came up waving a can of fish toward me, and mentioned that the product was never on special at this time of year. Satisfied that she’d shared her annoyance with someone she purposefully strode off toward the checkout, can clasped firmly in her hand. I doubt I was the only one who heard about the situation.
Some of you may have guessed what was going on, others might be mystified. The time of year was Lent.
Lent is a time of forty days that lead up to Easter. That’s why it begins on different Wednesdays (Ash Wednesday) each year. Now, my own tradition doesn’t generally observe the season of Lent, but many other Christians do.
Generally observance involves actions of worship, prayer, sorrow for sin, charity, and self-denial. These take place in church and personal settings. It’s also why the lady in question was eating fish.
The custom seems to be inspired by a desire to mark and remember the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. The Bible recounts the faithful resistance to temptation that Jesus demonstrated during that time.
Sometimes such observances can become about us. I can’t remember how far into Lent my encounter with the lady in the supermarket took place, but denying yourself meat and getting aggravated about the price of tinned fish isn’t exactly the spirit of Jesus that we’re meant to focus on.
I was recently reminded how the benefit of such times is not found in us trying to be like Jesus, but in remembering how different Jesus is from each of us.
Jesus didn’t grudge his time in the wilderness or see it as a burden. He willingly endured the time spent there on our behalf.
Jesus was tempted to receive physical sustenance, personal security, and power in relationships apart from God. He rejected these and trusted in God for their provision.
Christians acknowledge that we give in to these sorts of temptations all the time. We don’t need forty days to realise it, any twenty-four hours will usually do.
So, if you see Christians preparing for Easter in any variety of ways, hopefully they’re focussing on the difference between themselves and Jesus, the fact that Jesus is the only faithful and obedient one, the unique one who is qualified to redeem God’s people. As each of us reflects on our own inadequacies, a season such as this enables us to focus on the one who God sent to be so much more than merely adequate on our behalf on Good Friday and Easter Sunday.