“Today we have a blowout on Alleluias”
We weren’t in a Walmart. It was the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, the last Sunday before Lent, when the minister made this announcement. He emphasised that we were going to say and sing Alleluia in abundance that Sunday because they wouldn’t be in the liturgy again till Easter Sunday morning. That’s six weeks of no alleluias – approximately the length of time Jesus spent in fasting and prayer in the desert as he began his ministry.
As you read this, we are well down the road toward Good Friday and Easter Sunday (April 19 & 21). You may have taken up a Lenten discipline, fasting from a food, beverage, habit or pattern. I have done a little of both. As I mentioned in a Monday thought the words of the prophet Isaiah captured me. "Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? (Isaiah 58:6 ESV)
My intention was to say that verse every morning as I began my prayers but I realized it was not sufficient so I committed to fasting from something that would challenge me physically. The prophet’s words help me to connect to the mess in the world that needs rectifying (Muslims massacred in a mosque, 1000’s dead or homeless in Mozambique). It also helps me see that the suffering of Jesus connects deeply with this suffering.
My physical discipline connects me with the fasting of Jesus, if he can do 40 days without food, I can surely do the same with one of my indulgences. He comes to mind when I am tempted to cheat – not as a critic but as an encourager who says, “You can do it too.”
We look forward to the Sunday when we can with unalloyed joy hoist a champagne toast and shout “Alleluia, Christ is Risen, Alleluia”. Whatever your spiritual practice I hope you will find time to have a sober look at how much pain the world is in, how much we need to change. And how this connects us in hopeful fashion to work with the God who is with us in life, death, resurrection and ascension.
Life is hard, life is good, life is hopeful. Jesus endured his suffering, humiliation, death, resurrection and ascension to restore all of creation. He invites, yea, calls loudly to us to be part of his work of restoring the relationship of the world to the Father.
May this time of Lent sharpen our senses to the hope we have in Jesus, especially in the face of the sorrow and pain of our world. May we suffer with those who suffer and serve their needs in the spirit of Jesus. And we look forward to singing and shouting “Christ is Risen, Alleluia” on April 21st.
With Jesus’ joy
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