Guilty Before the Lord – Leviticus 5
So the priest will make atonement on his behalf for his error which he committed (although he himself had not known it) and he will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; he was surely guilty before the Lord. (Leviticus 5:18-19)
Guilt. It’s why I’m not into Lent.
I grew up in churches that loved Lent. We sang goodbye to Alleluia the week before, as if there were nothing left to celebrate for the next month. We sang dirgey music about what poor, miserable sinners we were and about the agony Christ suffered at our cause. The pastor would read the Scriptures describing the torturous events of Jesus’ trial, while the congregation shouted in unison, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” like we really meant it. It was six weeks of guilt and depression.
Then, Easter. Alleluia is back in the song book. The end. On to the next holiday!
I understand not everyone feels this way about Lent. My husband thinks I’m nuts. He loves Lent. For him, it’s the story of Christ, who loves us so much that He took on hell itself and died, fighting for our freedom, kind of like watching Saving Private Ryan for a month. My husband savors it, and he’s stoked by the time Easter morning comes.
I’m just a bit of a renegade when it comes to Lenten theology.
I think of it like this: What if, each year when your birthday rolls around, for six weeks in advance, special times are planned to relive, in gory detail, along with a PowerPoint presentation, your actual birth experience? Your mother sits at the head of the table, looking sad and weary, and describes the hours and hours of labor she went through to bring you into this world. You listen to the stories over and over, year after year.
Your job during this “celebration” is to REALLY realize what your life has cost her. You try desperately to comprehend all that she’s done for you, how much she loves you to endure such agony. You vow never again to disappoint her, or make her cry, or disobey. Finally, your actual birthday arrives. You get presents and cake and maybe your favorite supper. Time to sing Happy Birthday! The end. Back to school.
Even having endured childbirth six times, I still can’t see how having a yearly guilt fest would accomplish much. Maybe it would make my kids more….what… Contrite? Apologetic? Grateful? Is that what I really want from them? Well, yeah, some, but that’s not the point.
I want to watch them grow, and learn, and play. I want to hear them laugh, and sing. I want to hear them say, “I love you.” I want them to love each other. I don’t want lengthy apologies and punishments, I want to see heart changes that make them choose to live a better way. I don’t need them to relive my pain, I want them to see the pain in the world, and make a difference in it for God. I want them to be thankful; for me, my love, and for everything they have. I want them to really know Jesus and I want them to know who they really are:
For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ (who is your life) appears, then you too will be revealed in glory with him…“ … the elect of God, holy and dearly loved. (Colossians 3: 3-4, 12)
Holy, and dearly loved. That’s amazing. That’s a reason for year-round Hallelujahs…even during Lent.
Teri Vogeli still can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up. She and her husband started out teaching in California, but moved to Michigan to grow a family, where they built a house, homeschooled their seven kids and fell in love with organic gardening, canning, and country life. After years leading youth ministry, women’s ministry, mom’s ministry and children’s ministry, she and her husband, now a pastor, shepherd a little church in farm country. She has fun filling in any gaps. They recently bought a restored 1880 farmhouse where she enjoys her dog, chickens, horses, barn cats, and grandkids. A hobbit at heart, she often needs a little piece of quiet. Visit with her at TeriVogeli.wordpress.com.