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Here comes Lent

Considering the emotions and focus of Lent

“Don’t forget your Paczkis!”

That is the announcement on the sign in the window of Creative Cakes, my favorite coffee shop, in Tinley Park. Paczkis are a wonderful (but not diet friendly) Polish donut that is cut in half like a hamburger bun and then stuffed full of cream and jelly. Thanks to the diverse ethnicity of Chicago, this tasty Fat Tuesday treat is the yearly reminder that Lent is here, by inviting everyone to have one last day of indulgence before Lent.

Observing seasons like Advent and Lent, and days like Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Sunday, Pentecost, and Christ the King Sunday remind us not only of the historicity of our faith but also of the drama of the story of redemption.

For many, Lent is a time of self-denial as we recall the 40 days that Christ spent in the wilderness after his baptism. During that time, Jesus fasted and endured great temptation.

Yet, an over-emphasis on self-denial confuses and clouds the trajectory of Lent. At Trinity and Redemption, Lent is a time of focusing more intently on our need of being rescued from our sins. We embrace the opportunity examine our lives and our world to see all the places that are in need of restoration.

This gradual ramping up of intensity on our need rescue culminates in the somber events of Good Friday, when we are reminded that everything must have seemed hopeless as Jesus announced, “It is finished!” and then slumped dead on the cross.

But we must never forget that throughout Lent we carry the constant joy and hope of Easter morning. As Christians, we have the certain assurance that every aspect of our lacking is met in Christ and every sin is forgiven in Christ. This is the truth that the resurrection announced.

Lent, for Christians, is best celebrated with a mix of emotions. This will be especially true for those of us at Redemption this year.

Sunday will be our final Sunday with Dustin Huckstep. He is heading for a staff-level position Crete Church as their Director of Worship. Additionally, this will be my tenth and final Lenten season as a pastor. Each Sunday brings me closer to a final goodbye on Easter Sunday which makes the emotions of this season a bit overwhelming. So, there is sadness.

As we move through Lent at Redemption, we will also do a great deal of celebrating! Jess Bordenaro will move into the role of Worship Director; we will welcome almost a dozen new members of all ages and backgrounds; we will elect, ordain, and install our first deacons; and we will commission the first members of a male and female diaconal team to serve with them.

Each year, Lent starts off on Ash Wednesday. This year, however, Lent also begins on St. Valentine's Day. While that day alone deserves its very own blog column, this year it is a helpful reminder that the whole trajectory of Lent is to announce extravagant LOVE! Specifically, the steadfast love and faithfulness of a God who "sent his only Son that whoever believes in him would never perish but have eternal life."

So, eat your Pacziks, embrace the Lenten focus on our sinfulness and need for redemption, and never forget that joy and love are yours every day - in Christ.

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