Bp Bena Feb 2017
by Bishop Dave Bena
Don't look now, but Lent is only a few days away! Ash Wednesday is closing in - March 1st.
So how do we prepare for Lent? Well, since we're still in the Epiphany Season right now, which is a season for "manifesting" the coming of Jesus, we continue to highlight the Evangel, the missionary Gospel. The Sunday Gospel lessons lead us into preaching for conversion and for equipping the saints to be salt and light in the world. That emphasis is going to change soon. Although we always preach for conversion and the equipping of the saints, our focus will change when we enter Lent.
The Gospel lesson for the Last Sunday in Epiphany, February 26, helps us get ready for the Lenten Season of Solemnity. Matthew 17:1-9 is about Jesus being transfigured on the mountain in front of Peter, James and John. It is a high point in the apostles' lives as they see the "real" Jesus for just an instant. And it's a great exclamation point and conclusion for Epiphany as Jesus is manifested for whom He really is - the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He is shown forth as the MESSIAH.
And just as Peter, James and John had to descend from the mountain back into the hurting world, so we will leave the epiphonious life behind and descend the mountain into the hurting world of our sinfulness.
Ash Wednesday smacks us right in the face with the fact that we are sinners in need of redemption. The ashes on our foreheads remind us that our sinful nature has doomed us to death - "ashes to ashes and dust to dust." Thus we begin a Lenten Season of solemn penitence. Each Sunday highlights the temptations that grab us and the sinful ways we try to handle life. Sunday by Sunday, we trudge along toward denouement - the remembrance of propitiation, the great act of Jesus dying on the cross on our behalf (the substitutionary sacrifice). Solemn indeed! But we have to go through Lent and the crucifixion in order to get to Resurrection and hope for our lives!
So how do we prepare for Lent?
Number One: Enjoy Epiphany while it lasts! Allow Jesus to manifest Himself more and more in your life. Spend quiet time each day basking in His transfiguration in your everyday comings and goings.
Number Two: Pray and think about how you will spend this Lenten Season. Some choose to take on good works, generosity or increased prayers or church services as ways of thanking Jesus for saving them. Some choose to sacrifice something - certain kinds of food or amounts taken in, leisure activities, bad habits - as a way to live with Jesus in His great sacrifice. What will you take on or shake off this Lent.
Number Three: Develop a personal plan for the forty days of Lent. Write it down. "My plan for Lent this year is to spend more time gazing at a cross in order to remind myself of the love Jesus has for me." A spiritual leader many years ago - Bishop Zinzendorf of the Moravians - Advocated meditating on the cross with Jesus on it, spending time examining each wound and the blood flowing down His body in order to truly fall in love with Jesus. That was his plan. What's yours?
Meanwhile, a bright and cheery Epiphany to you! Lent Cometh.