Even though we’re well into the Church Season of Lent, many don’t know what “Lent” is all about. Lent is a season that helps us prepare for the joy of Easter. Lent is a time for refection, penitence and renewal of faith.
In fact, the word “Lent” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word – lencten – meaning “spring.” And just as springtime is a season for renewal and growth, so also Lent is a time for renewed discipleship and re-commitment to our growth as Christians.
But Lent is also a time when we look at our beginnings. It’s a time when we come to grips with our roots – that we were born, even conceived, in sin as Psalm 51:5 coldly reminds us: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (ESV).
So Lent is a season that directs us to look at ourselves. And when we do, it’s not a pretty sight. But fortunately, we have another place and person to look to for comfort. That is why we’re encouraged to “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). And when we do, it’s always with the cross in mind.
But what a strange thing, you may think, for us to put our hope in. An instrument of torture – a method of execution – must become the very hope to which Christians cling.
A man discovers a priceless masterpiece hidden behind a painting he paid 10 dollars for at an estate sale. A woman looks at her great-grandfather’s violin and wipes the dust off a name that reveals its maker: Antonio Stradivari. A boy opens a box of old toys his father is about to throw out and sees a baseball card. With wide eyes he reads, “Mickey Mantle - Rookie”. The best treasures are often where you least expect them.
God, too, puts treasure where you least expect it. He hides His treasure in the plainest and most ordinary of places. Like words and water. Like bread and wine. Like a corpse on a cross.
And so, when we ponder the cross, we Christians don’t see an “off-center plus sign.” We don’t just see “two pieces of wood.” No, we survey the man on the wood. The wood simply gives the man context. It helps define who He is and what He did.
Therefore, the best barometer for the Christian isn’t to become a “lesser sinner” (even if that were possible). Rather, the mature Christian becomes ever more aware of the insurmountable gap between God and man.
We can never underestimate the depravity of man nor overestimate the grace of God. Jesus Christ willingly spanned the chasm of sin by stretching His nailed hands from the riches of heaven to the sinfulness of man.
“Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a tribute far too small; love so amazing, so divine – demands my soul, my life, my all!” (stanza 4, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross”).
Reverend Mueller is pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church, 636 Old N. Main Street, Cambridge. He can be reached at 763-689-1685.