WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?
In this busy culture, going to church once a week is tough enough – then we get to Lent. We understand the “tradition” of midweek services, but in our busy schedules tradition is often the first casualty. Plus, to be honest, Lenten services aren’t much fun. In a society that venerates entertainment (even the news falls under the entertainment division of major networks), midweek Lenten services are not entertaining. In fact, they are often sullen and somber. So why go? Let me make the case…
Today Jesus is often venerated for his kindness and “sacrificial spirit” but not for what it all means. The story of Lent is that Jesus died because of who we are, what we did and what we do. A central Lenten theme is that “he died for me – for my sins – for my salvation.” For that reason midweek Lenten services are somber, introspective and reflective. They force us to consider who we are and our pitiful standing before God if not for Jesus.
Consider the music of Lent. Our hymns come with titles like, “Go to Dark Gethsemane,” “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” and “Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted.” The liturgy is penitential and low key. We “bookend” Lent by offering the Lord’s Supper on Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday. It is a reminder of the body given and the blood shed for us. Good Friday punctuates all of this darkness with the climactic death of Jesus – because of us!
If you are not inclined to face up to your own sinfulness you will find little to appreciate in a midweek Lenten service. It is all about our sins and what was done to fix our problem.
In contrast, Sunday services rescue us from the sorrow of Lent. Each Sunday refreshes us with the message that Jesus paid the price for our sins and God accepted the payment. The Sunday services reach their climactic point Easter morning when our liturgy and hymns are as positive as they can be. Perhaps that is why Easter services are so well-attended. People like good news.
I fear for the message of Lent. The desire for entertainment makes Lent unappealing. In Lent, however, is the heart of the Christian faith. I encourage you to consider the value of the midweek Lenten services. We will talk candidly about what happened and what is happening and why the history lesson of Jesus is so important and meaningful for today and for forever. Come to the Lenten midweek services.
I can’t promise you great entertainment. I can’t promise that you will walk away with that “feel good” feeling. I can promise that through the message of Lent you will get to the heart of your Christian faith. As that message sinks in, you will mature in a worldview that is out of this world. You will increasingly understand why Christians are different – not just from those who are evil and immoral but different from the kind and moral who do not know God. In Lent you find the reason for a changed life. It’s a big deal, indeed!
~ Pastor Robert Fleischmann