|Salem Lutheran Church||
|Salem Lutheran Church||
Many of you will be reading this on Ash Wednesday, the day that marks the beginning of Lent. The Lenten season is the beginning of a forty day countdown to Easter. (Sundays are not included in the 40 days.) These forty days recall the forty days Jesus was in the wilderness, not eating and being tempted by Satan. They also recall the forty years during which the people of God wandered in the wilderness before they crossed the river Jordon into the Promised Land. Lent, with its resonance with these other events is a time when believers prepare and chasten themselves for redemption through prayer, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement and self-denial.
In the Old Testament, the rescue of God’s people culminates in the book of Joshua chapter 4 when the Israelites reached the river Jordan. The Jordan was the final barrier between them and the Promised Land. Their forty year journey started when Moses parted the Red Sea and now, again, God’s leader, Joshua, halts the flow of water in the Jordan and all cross to begin life in a new land.
To remember this event and that God is the one who is our refuge, rescue, and hope, Joshua had twelve stones set in the river at the place where they crossed. Without the stones, there would be a danger that generations to follow might forget God’s mighty act. Perhaps even more dangerous, that they would forget God. Therefore, Joshua made sacred the stones from the river Jordan.
Our forty day Lenten journey is a reminder of the wilderness wanderings of God’s chosen and the rescue and redemption that is at the end. The stones remind us that God sent his son Jesus to rescue and redeem us. Jesus has removed the final barrier between us and the Promised Land. The stones remind us that God in Christ Jesus rescues us from our sin and promises eternal life. And as God in Christ Jesus makes a new covenant, we are reminded that God delivers on his promises.
I would hope that each of us will consider this time during Lent a time to remember, a time to turn to the ritual which our various churches provide, and open ourselves to God’s redeeming love and mercy.
For me I plan to regularly pray the serenity prayer. When I was serving as a chaplain at the chemical dependency treatment center in Fergus Falls, we would recite the words of the Serenity Prayer after each group meeting. It was the prayer that everyone in recovery knew by heart.
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.”
It is difficult for all of us to be wise enough to recognize that there many things which we have no power over. In fact, many of the things we think are within our control are really not. The prayer is a reminded for me to slow me down. It causes me to reflect on the situation at hand.
This prayer will be part of my Lenten journey. I encourage readers to consider regular volunteering during Lent; reading scripture, praying more often, giving a special offering to the work of the church, or another positive activity. Change the things you can change. May God give us all wisdom through this season of ritual and remembering.
Pr. Peter Soli
Pr. Joel Guttormson