Lent, the period of forty days prior to Easter, was originally a time to prepare candidates for baptism. It later became a time of penitence (feeling remorseful and confessing our sins)—a time to pay attention to the sacrifice of Christ and the example of his devotion to God. It is also a dedicated time period of forty days—not counting Sundays—leading up to Easter.
In our busy sound-bite, snap-chat, Facebook, Twitter world, Lent comes as a gift to slow down for reflection and self-examination for all Christians. Jesus invites us to talk with him and walk with him.
A few years ago while, in the Holy Land, clergy and laity from Iowa were worshipping at the Jordan River where Jesus was baptized. Several groups of people came closer and closer as we sang and began to enter the water to renew their baptism. You could hear other languages being spoken as I placed water on the heads of those stepping into the Jordan River. Several others, not from our group, began to line up and step into the water. Without words being spoken, our group grew as followers of Jesus from other parts of the world gave thanks for the one who lived, loved, and died for us all.
Days later, as our HolyLand pilgrimage was coming to an end, we shared Holy Communion at the Garden Tomb. This, again, was a time to pay attention to the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and his devotion to the very end, and beyond. Jesus’ death on the cross is not the end of the story. It is the prelude that follows what the Maxwell Leadership Bible calls the “Law of Sacrifice” that leads to the “Law of Victory.” The empty tomb was sad and confusing for those who arrived first to discover no body in sight. However, for the generations of those who now celebrate Easter, the empty tomb reminds us that Jesus’ sacrifice for the sins of the world, including our sins, was the birth of more grace as God raised him from the dead. “What a surprise awaited that first Resurrection Sunday morning! When Jesus rose from the dead, he gave his followers a potent hope to end every doubt about his kingdom.” (Maxwell Leadership Bible, p1223)
Easter grace can be explained in this way:
The good news of Jesus’ love and the forgiveness that comes through his life,
death and resurrection. By grace I mean,
“Love, God’s love, that comes to us and
God’s love that shines through us.”
The chairperson of the 1989 Revised United Methodist Hymnal was Iowa bishop, Rueben P. Job. I give thanks for the richness of the many hymns that convey so well our theology and joyous praise through word and song.
The first verse of the hymn written in 1911, Grace Greater than Our Sin:
“Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,
grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!
Yonder on Calvary’s mount out poured,
there where the blood of the lamb was spilt.
Grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that will pardon and cleanse within;
grace, grace, God’s grace,
grace that is greater than all our sin!”
Our prayer is that Easter grace will shine through us as we witness and sing throughout the year. “Jesu, Jesu, fill us with your love, show us how to serve the neighbours we have from you.” (UMH #432)
Bishop Julius C. Trimble