The Book of Worship states that Lent “is a preparation for celebrating Easter.” Many people will tell you that Easter is their favorite day; not many will say that Lent is their favorite season. It has a reputation for being gloomy; rightfully so. It invites us to consider two rather unpleasant topics: our mortality and our sin. Who wants to think about such things?
Nontheless, it is the wisdom of the tradition that we will not fully appreciate the good news we celebrate on Easter morning if we haven’t faced the darkness of our sin and death.
William Willimon tells of a wild old preacher of a generation back named Carlye Marney who was asked once while speaking at a college: “Dr. Marney, let us hear, you say a word or two about the resurrection of the dead.”
“I don’t discuss such matters with anyone under thirty,’ said Carlye Marney.
“Why?” they asked, somewhat startled.
“Look at you,” said Marney. “Prime of life, potent, never have you known honest to God failure, heartburn, impotency, solid defeat, brick walls, mortality. So what in God’s name can you know of a dark world which only makes sense if Christ is raised.”
I think there surely are a lot of young people who know such things, but the point is well taken. Until you’ve looked into the deep darkness, how can you appreciate the light that overcomes it?
When in your life was the darkness deepest? Where in the present are you tempted to despair by your inability to cast out the darkness? Conscious of these times and places, you are given a pathway of compassion to others who find themselves in the abyss in the present moment. People often suffer in darkness unnoticed by those around them. Who in your life might be in such a place right now? Perhaps you feel moved in the present moment to pray for them; to hold them in God’s tender embrace.
Lord Jesus, at the end of your earthly journey, you found yourself all alone in the valley of the shadow of death. Having been there yourself, you stand with us wherever we find ourselves in that same darkness, and for this we are grateful. Grant us patience as we wait once more to experience the power of your resurrection, for ourselves and for those you have given us to love. Amen.