It's no small miracle that I got these three to stand still and smile for this Easter photograph. While the days of matching plaid shorts and fancy Easter baskets are gone, I was thrilled to receive a request for our annual egg hunt. It may be the last time our near teen participates in the festivity, so that makes it all the more sweeter. Happy Easter to all!
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Luke 24:1-6
"The love of Jesus is the most prevailing and magnificent force in the world: stronger than every rejection, every failure, every tragedy, every worry, and every hurt. Until a resurrection moment occurs, until the unlimited, unbridled, and unrelenting love of God takes root in our life, until God’s reckless pursuit of us captures our imagination, until our head knowledge of God settles into our heart through pure grace, nothing really changes.
The love of God; that irrepressible force that resurrected Jesus from death and rolled back the stone that sealed his tomb, setting him free, is unlike any other love. And it’s not based on anything we do. If it was, and that 'anything' somehow gave way, then wouldn’t His love disintegrate as well? Yet that’s the furthest thing from what could possibly happen. Nothing is stronger or deeper than His love. As 1 John 4:16 says, 'God is love.' ”
Later, knowing that everything had now been finished, and so that Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus’ lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. John 19:28-30
"The death of Jesus Christ is the fulfillment in history of the very mind and intent of God. There is no place for seeing Jesus Christ as a martyr. His death was not something that happened to Him— something that might have been prevented. His death was the very reason He came.
Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption “much ado about nothing.” God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. “We see Jesus . . . for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor . . .” (Hebrews 2:9). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “It is finished!” (John 19:30). That is the final word in the redemption of humankind."
As Lent concludes, and with it my Lenten observance, I pause to reflect. Before moving out of this season, I want to consider how I moved through it. And to do so honestly. That's the difficult part. I feel like I should start with a disclaimer, a confession...an excuse. However, I'm not. Instead, I am going to extend some grace to myself and accept what this Lent was rather than what it (or I) was not.
This year I intended to observe Lent by mindfully, soulfully, and faithfully praying, worshipping, and writing. As I reflect, I acknowledge that I only met with success in the practice of writing...and even in this I regularly had to remind myself of the original call, remain aware of my motivations, and resist the urge to write out of duty rather than desire.
A blog I recently read posed the question, "Have you fallen prey to Lenten angst? Where have you been relying on muscling yourself into change, and where have you relied on the Spirit?" The writer defines Lenten angst as "Seeking to overcome the flesh through fleshly effort; unwitting (and ill-fated) attempts to will oneself to a higher spiritual plane."
I admit that the past 40 days were sprinkled with a fair amount of Lenten angst. The villian named Forgetfulness also snuck onto the scene to distract me from it was all truly about. And in the end, I am left rethinking the decision to take up rather than lay down during the season of Lent. These are all thoughts I will ponder between now and next year.
I appreciate this explanation from writer Valerie Hess. She reminds me: "The forty day journey to Easter that Christ-followers make each year is called Lent, from the Old English word that means “lengthen.” The days are lengthening and our souls are invited to lengthen also. By that, I mean we are invited to journey from where we are to a more complete version of who God created us to be. We do that through the disciplines of Lent."
Pastor Keith Meyer echoes, "The desired result is not just a seasonal increase of activity that wanes after Lent, but for deeper character for every day of the year."
So, as Lent concludes, I ponder, "Am I a more complete version of who God created me to be?" I give thanks for all that I learned through this season. And I pray that the meditations of my heart and the words of my mouth have been pleasing to God.