Dear Redeemer Family:
At a recent conference, a speaker said, “Christians proclaim the gospel…the good news… but what is that news? The news is that Jesus did not stay dead. The news is that Christ is risen.” She paused. The conference was silent. Finally, one lone voice from the crowd called out tentatively, ”He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” It was September, and the crowd was a bit rusty. The Easter proclamation felt odd at first, out of its usual context. The speaker repeated the call and response, and urged the assembly to repeat it, again and again, underscoring how we are called as Christians to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only on Easter Sunday but on every Sunday.
On Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we will be following the ancient Church tradition of “burying” the word alleluia to mark the beginning of Lent. As we do this, we know that Lent is not a time to bury Jesus. Jesus is not dead. The newsworthy event – Jesus died and did not stay dead – is the good news we are continually called to share. The world inverting miracle of the incarnation, “God with us” – which we might associate more with Advent or Christmas – also has deep resonance in these forty days.
Christ is risen. And the season of Lent also deserves to be its own thing. It’s the same good news with the emphasis on a different syllable. A grieving mom spoke once of how she tried to go to church at Christmas, but couldn’t bear the overwhelming imagery of baby related joy, backed up by cheerful music and tinsel everywhere. When she returned to church in Lent, “the church looked how I felt: bruised.” She decided she was ready to return to church. In Lent she could hear, see, and sing the incarnation and resurrection hope in a way that also acknowledged the reality of loss and death. Lent is a time when everything we do in worship – readings, music, colors, liturgical arts – can remind us simultaneously of the reality of death, the reality of resurrection life, and Jesus’ experience of life, death, and resurrection life with us. As Bishop Guy Erwin said at the same conference, mentioned above, “Our faith is death-defying: it take death seriously, and faces it unflinchingly.”
Life has its ups and downs. Although we always look forward to the celebrations of Christmas and Easter, the themes of Lent are just as real to us. And they are all too real for our faith development, and faith journeys. Alleluia.