In my first call as a Pastor, I shared a lectionary group with Rev. Jim Parker who had served a neighboring UCC church (seemingly) forever. One January day, Jim announced that he wouldn’t be with us in February or through the first half of March. He was heading down to Florida for six weeks of vacation. This was unimaginable to me, leaving church in the middle of the Holy Season. “What about Lent?” I asked him. Jim smiled. “This year I’m giving up Lent for Lent.”
I think of Jim in these dog days of winter, when we know the season can’t last forever but it sure seems like it will; in these dark days of Lent when the Good News of the Resurrection still seems so far away. I can’t blame him or any other of our snow birds for fleeing to warmer climes, avoiding the worst of winter, side-stepping the darkness of Lent. Sometimes it all gets too heavy, too hard, too depressing.
But I also want to remember what we proclaim in our UCC Statement Faith, that God in Jesus Christ “has come to us and shared our common lot, conquering sin and death and reconciling the world” to God’s self. This holy season of Lent reminds us that God does not side-step our sorrow and suffering. God does not flee from darkness and death. It’s because of this that we too can endure.
The Russian poet Anna Akhmatova who suffered so much loss in Stalinist Russia, wrote this: In the terrible years of the Yezhov terror, I spent seventeen months in the prison lines of Leningrad. Once, someone “recognized” me. Then a woman with bluish lips standing behind me, who, of course, had never heard me called by name before, woke up from the stupor to which everyone had succumbed and whispered in my ear (everyone spoke in whispers there):
“Can you describe this?”
And I answered: “Yes, I can.”
Then something that looked like a smile passed over what had once been her face.
This is Jesus Christ, the one who chose to live a life as one of us and can remember and describe the terrors of human existence. The season of Lent reminds us that because of Jesus and the choice he made, we can see our way through the sadness and darkness of the present moment and present season to hope and purpose, life and love. Easter’s coming soon. Spring too!
Your friend and fellow minister,
Rev. Steve Savides