Happy Easter! You could say that for the next 6 weeks or so because Easter isn't just a day, it's a season! What does an empty tomb mean for you?
For me, The Good News of Jesus Christ, that he was crucified, died, was buried and rose again on the third day, is summed up in Grace. When you think about the whole ordeal, it doesn't make much sense. A peaceful, helpful, loving, teacher and friend gets accused of being a rebel claiming to be king. Yet he had now sword, no war horse, no army, and showed no violence against anyone. He helped people. He healed people. He said his mission was to let the oppressed go free.
Those who were "in charge" and had influence and power didn't really like it much. My guess is, they saw Jesus as a threat to their power because he challenged the status quo. The status quo allowed them to enjoy the position they had. It was comfortable. It was safe. But not for everybody. Jesus helped those who were forgotten and left behind due to the status quo. He empowered people by "forgiving sins" and connecting them with a relationship to The Most High power, God, whom Jesus called, Father. And it changed their lives.
Easter, the Resurrection, for me is a reminder of the Grace that God has shown me. It empowers me to live in a way that defies common cultural status quo. Forgiveness does that. It looks foolish. It looks like being "soft on crime" and letting people get away with things. But God sees it differently. He sees it as a chance to restore life and love, instead of tear it down. For the most part, we operate on the terms of "retributive" justice, but God's idea for us is "restorative justice." Forgiveness empowers us to forgive others. When I forgive someone, it relieves bitterness and grudges. It keeps me from being paranoid and defensive. It makes life a whole lot more joyful and enjoyable...not just endurable.
For many of us, we have a hard time forgiving others. We operate in this "tit-for-tat" or "you do for me and I'll do for you" mindset. We have a hard time being generous with our affection (the many ways it can be shown, big or small) unless we know that person will reciprocate. I think we have a hard time doing this because we have not realized the depth at which God has generously shown us affection without any regard for whether or not we respond in kind. Because we do not accept God's grace, God's overwhelming loving kindness and mercy through Jesus Christ on the cross, we cannot offer forgiveness and operate in the abundance of life God has for us. Letting God's grace, the power of the Cross and the Resurrection to wash over you, and know that you're completely utterly forgiven and in good-standing with God will empower you to live differently and forgive others.
You have to receive this gift from God first. He took care of it for you. You can try to forgive others, do more good than bad, be generous, etc., but at some point you'll think "why? Why am I trying so hard to measure up?" And you'll realize you don't have a good answer to that. You'll be overwhelmed by all the pressure for "success". Because you expect some kind of reciprocation from others, you apply this to how you approach God too. Eventually, you might even think "I do all these good things, and I don't do all of these bad things that other people do, so now God, it's time for you to...(fill in the blank with whatever you want God to do). The point of Grace though, is there is nothing you can do to be more "acceptable" to God. He wants you. He became human flesh like you, went through the harshest suffering and pain with you, and overcame death and the grave for you. You could never earn it or deserve it. God simply loves you completely, just as you are without any prerequisites. You are God's child. Your identity comes from God, not from what the common cultural status quo or other powers of oppression tell you. You are completely forgiven. I love how the song by Mercy Me puts it, "Flawless." Watch their music video and see it for yourself:
I've covered what Lent is, but why do we celebrate Lent? A lot of my non-liturgical Baptisty-type friends often ask, "If you're giving up something for Lent, why not get rid of it altogether?" If something is really worth giving up so you can have a better relationship with God, then just quit it for good. The problem is, you can't apply that to fasting...we all need food. Lent invites us to practice self-denial, of which fasting is an example. You're denying yourself something for the purpose of preparing for Easter when Christ denied himself, and was the sacrifice for all of us.
I agree that there are certain things we should give up for good. Things that we are addicted to. Things that have become like an idol for us. Things that distract us from our relationship with God. We should be working on those things anyway, not because we are trying to earn God's favor, but because his grace has changed us.
Lent is about being intentional, and having a more intense time of self-denial. It's like the time when Jesus went into the wilderness. He took an intentional spiritual journey for a certain period of time. We need this from time to time, and Lent is the time that the Church has designated for us all to do it together (or at least at the same time). So, why Lent? It's a way for us to experience the Gospel story in a hands-on, experiential way. The Good News is more than words. Self-denial keeps us in touch with Christ, and helps us know some sense of solidarity with those who do go without food and other things that we can take for granted. Hopefully, Lent and the practice of self-denial cultivates your character, and puts you in touch with the work of Christ this Easter.
Feel free to share in the comments why you practice a holy Lent.
I am a Software Developer, a career shift made in 2018. So far, I have experience with C# .Net and Angular. I continue to let curiosity lead me into learning new technologies. I plan to share what I learn along the way about technology and personal/career life. Previously, my vocation was United Methodist pastor. So in addition to coding, I'll share about theology, the Church and The Bible. I also enjoy running, music, and I'm a deeply committed father and husband. Maybe my experiences will help you. I know it helps me to share.