Are We Too Early? Romans 10:8b-13
Lent is not the season to pretend that Jesus has not yet risen from the grave. Instead, it is the season to remember the place of suffering in the magnificent story of Jesus, of the “Christ event.” During Lent we are reminded that suffering and submission are entwined with salvation. Jesus inquired about that for us and with us in the garden when he prayed to see if there was another way.
Salvation awaits our confession that Jesus is Lord and that Jesus died. We must also believe that God raised Jesus from the dead. That’s not all, but it is the beginning. Lent prepares us for the death of the Lord, himself. This puts all other deaths and suffering into perspective. Any who would try to shame us end up reinforcing the fact that we are on the path Jesus walked. Suffering marks a step taken, a step that brings us closer to Jesus.
Lent reminds us of our deepest identification with Christ. Jesus holds one end of our pain, one end of our grief, our shame, and our fear. There is joy in nearness to Christ, of course. But there is something very personal about pain, and Jesus is appropriately present in our pain-pain of every sort. His presence is our salvation; we call out to Jesus and we feel his presence as a tug, a touch, a lifting that says, “I’m here.” Believing and knowing bow to the touch that comes in response to our call. Christ is with us and we are saved.
Prayer is an act of confession that says we believe Jesus is Lord. We may not understand all of his ways, but we believe he is there to hear us. In our hearts there is a knowing that says our prayer and confession is not in vain. Lent is there for us when we are not in a position to gladly know that Jesus is Lord.
Acknowledging our need for the Lord to save us puts all people on the same level. Our need for God does not diminish us, nor does it elevate us above anyone else. It does help us to see that we are no different from any other person. Who did we once consider “other”? Who did we once consider “less” or “lower” or “above” us? We are the same in our need of the Lord; we are the same before Jesus who is the Lord who died and lives and justifies. Lent can bring down walls, or it can keep them from going up. Lent shows haughtiness to be on the side of those who condemned Jesus; it causes us to feel the spit and the whip and the cutting words.
Returning to God is calling on the name of Jesus, the one who suffered and died, to grab hold of our pain and help us carry it. Returning to God is to call on the name of Jesus to make something out of all that is falling apart. We might not think to call in this way if we were not reminded that this is not new territory to Jesus. Jesus is our hope and our salvation, the one who returned to be our redeemer. When we turn to Jesus, he turns to death and says, “She is no longer yours, I am here for him,” and we are saved. We call upon the Lord, and an upward force, greater than the dragging down we have known, turns things around.
“Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (v 13). Are we too early in Lent to hear this? We are not. Hearing these words this early in Lent gives us the remainder of the season to consider what it meant to Jesus for the word “everyone” to include me. We may need the time.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
A word about the series
The Lenten season has always inspired many people to create everything from poems, art and music to a completely new direction in their lives. This Lenten season Tabernacle will be exploring many of those creations in the hope of inspiring you to compose in a medium that is natural for you. The paintings in the Sanctuary are of the Biblical Stations of the Cross. The artist, Grieg Leach, completed them in 2010. They will help us to visualize the events leading to the crucifixion of Jesus. In addition to the paintings there is a Lenten devotional booklet, Return to Me, which is available in print or online. The Stations of the Cross also inspired these devotions, written by Terry York of Baylor University. Living with these two bodies of artistic expression based on the Biblical Stations of the Cross throughout the season of Lent should help us as we seek to return our lives to God by walking with Jesus though his final days.
Pray, read, think and return to God.