“Sin is not ultimately the things we do; sin is the inclination of serving death as the ultimate reality rather than serving the God who brings life out of death. Sin as the state of our being is the reality that we will die. We commit sins, do things that hurt others and stand in opposition to God, when we believe the deceptive lie of death itself. We sin when death whispers to us, ‘If you will serve me, I will keep you from dying,’ and we take up death’s offer. We do things that hurt others because we are deceived into believing that if we sacrifice another to death, death will leave us alone. We sin because we find ourselves vulnerable to death, and to deny its reality we serve it. Therefore sin can only be overcome through one who bears death, taking away its power by caging it with the love of the Trinity. As Paul again reminds us, Jesus Christ has become sin, become death, so that we might find life in the midst of death (2 Corinthians 5:21 and Galatians 3:13). As disciples, then, we can only live lives in opposition to sin if we seek the God who is found in death. We can only live faithfully beyond death’s deception if we take on death, if we face it and bear it.” (Andrew Root. The Promise of Despair. [Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2010], p. 100.)
Lent has arrived. With it death has come knocking at our door.
Ash Wednesday is a time to remember our captivity to sin, to death, to the finite life that pursues escape at all cost – and name its claim on us. It is also a time for two things to happen.
First. For those within the Christian community it is a time for us to refocus on Christ’s claim upon us – through his life, death and resurrection, given in the promise of baptism, lived in a life of trust, dependence and obedience to follow him as a disciple. Lent is a time to be cleansed, to empty our lives of the things that cloud our relationship with God and others when we succumb to the lies death whispers in our ears. It is a time to take up those practices – prayer, generosity, personal sacrifice, that remind us of who we belong to and who we are called to be.
Second. Lent is a time of exploration. The forty-days in the wilderness can be a time to ask who this Jesus is and what his life, death and resurrection means to those who seek him. In the early centuries of the church, Lent served as a time of preparation for those to be baptized. Wed can still explore the mysteries of faith as we enter that wilderness again as those seeking to understand what it means to sacrifice for others, pray and enter the story of Jesus of Nazareth we call the Christ.
Here are five questions to think about throughout Lent. These are not right/wrong questions but a place for you to engage, contemplate, flesh out, reflect, respond, and consider.
1. In what ways do you hear the whisper of death calling your name?
2. Where have you capitulated to that whisper?
3. What does it mean that Jesus “becomes sin and death”?
4. What protects you from death’s whisper?
5. Who might you invite to explore with you when Jesus calls your name?
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)