Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ashes

by Dan Jones

I have to admit, I am not a big fan of Lent.

After all, it’s 40 days of contemplating over what a horrible person I am.
While I’m not contesting my sinful nature at all, it’s certainly no joy to immerse myself in it-- especially for six long weeks.

And it sure doesn’t help that it begins in the middle of February.

Whoever decided they needed to be more depressed at this time of year certainly was not from this part of the planet.

Martin Luther may not have had to beat himself with sticks for penance had he encountered a five-foot snow drift and a snow shovel whose handle broke half-way into it.

The word “Lent” comes from the West Germanic word “langa-tinaz” which means “longer days” or “spring.”

Right.

Maybe in West Germany, February is when there’s some hope that spring is just around the corner, but those of us from here know better than to entertain warm, fuzzy thoughts of spring in February.

There is a line between “having a positive attitude” and being self-delusional.

The seed catalogs haven’t even shown up yet, for goodness sake.

There’s a very good reason, brothers and sisters, that there are only 28 days in February.

Come to think of it, whoever added the extra day for Leap Year to February had to have been a very, very cruel person indeed. What possible kind of harm could have been caused by having a June 31st once every four years?

Yes, fast food chains will take this opportunity to put fish sandwiches on sale, but I’m pretty sure there’s a picture of a cheap fish sandwich in some lexicon somewhere under the heading “cold comfort.”

And that, dear friends, is exactly how NOT to approach Lent.

There’s a portion of our society that says it is good to “vent”-- and that is an absolute lie.

The previous 299 words were nothing more than whining. They did not make me feel better and they did not lift you up, support you, or make your life better. Perhaps you had a chuckle here and there at my infantile display, but it encouraged no one.

“Venting” does not get things out in the open and allow one to move on. 

 “Venting” is what the Israelites were doing when they complained about the manna.

And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” (Numbers 21:5 ESV)

Complaining only adds to the problem. It makes things seem worse than they really are.

And, if one complains long enough and loud enough, one actually starts to believe that things are worse than they really are. We start to believe life really is against us, that the flowers will never bloom again, and the robins are not coming back.

Worse, we start to believe there is no hope.

And that’s a very big lie indeed.

But the truth is that God in His incredible, infinite mercy and grace sent His only begotten Son to die for whiners and malcontents like me.

And the truth is Jesus would not stay in that tomb.

His resurrection-- and our salvation was as certain and as sure as God’s own word.

So, the hope is not only real—it is guaranteed. It is a hope that lives and moves and breathes and rises from the cold, dark, and sealed tomb with absolute and positive certainty.

And all of this is not to our shame, but to His glory!

That is why Jesus told us not to look like the walking dead when we fast, but to have clean and shining faces of joy. (Matthew 6:16-18)

The seed catalogs will come, the flowers will bloom, and the robins will return.

And it’s okay to enjoy that fish sandwich.

Today’s Praise

"As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease." Genesis 8:22

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