Lent I, 2024

The journey to Easter begins. I have always been fascinated by the origins of this season in the preparation of catechumens for their baptism at the vigil of Easter. The readings for the season take the novice through a whiplash inducing route of Christ’s victory over the evil one, to the realities of the cross, applying to that to the Christian. We hear iconic passages, Eph. 2:8-9, John 3:16, and more. These are brutally set against Jesus’ predictions of death, suffering, loss, and shame. Perhaps the paradigmatic passage is the confession of Peter immediately followed by Jesus’ rebuke of Peter, calling him Satan. The tensions are great.

Of course for the preacher, this tension makes for some excellent preaching. The tension puts energy into what we are saying, it functions like a rubber band wound tight. But it is also uncomfortable for both preacher and hearer. We long for resolution. That is what Lent is supposed to do to us. Easter comes. Resurrection comes when all these tensions are resolved in Christ, in death, in resurrection, in eternal and blessed life.

The preacher will want to pay attention to these tensions, some of which span multiple Sundays. That is especially true this first and second Sundays of the season as Jesus conquers Satan and the hearer rejoices. But this is followed immediately by Jesus outlining the means of that victory. It means cross, shame, death. But that is not heard until the following Sunday. Quite often the other readings help us here to tie these themes together. We will want to pay attention there.

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