Those who are practicing Lent can perhaps especially see Easter coming soon. I did not grow up practicing Lent because it wasn’t a part of my church tradition, but in recent years I’ve noticed that more and more Christians from all denominations seem to be taking part in it. Lent is a special time of prayer, repentance, and good works in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection. With each day of Lent, Christians get ready for Easter.
One of the stories Christians all over the world are read during Lent is the story of the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4, when Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days. And after those days, he was tempted by Satan, the adversary.
40 days of wandering in the wilderness. 40 days of Lent. There’s a connection. 40 is one of those important numbers in the Bible.
It rained on Noah’s ark for 40 days. On Mount Sanai, Moses fasted 40 days. When they got married, Isaac and Jacob were both 40 years old. The Israelites wandered in the desert 40 years. Ezekiel bore the burden of the sin of Judah for 40 days. After women gave birth, they entered a entered purification ritual that lasted 40 days. After the resurrection, Jesus appeared for 40 days.
In the Bible, one of the things that usually happens after the number 40 – 40 days or 40 years, is something new, or something good, or a gift.
After wandering in the desert, the Israelites entered a land flowing with milk and honey. After Ezekiel fasted for Judah, there was a gift – the forgiveness of sins. After women finished their time of purification, they introduced their babies to the world. After Isaac and Jacob got married, they experienced being one with another human being in marriage. After Jesus wandered in the wilderness, he defeated Satan in what I like to think of as the first-ever Bible Bowl competition. After Jesus appeared for 40 days, he was lifted up to heaven.
If you look closely, the number 40 is followed by indisputably good things: milk, honey, weddings, rainbows, babies, and heaven!
Lent’s emphasis on 40 days gives us a hint about how we should face the same, very-real, adversary Jesus faced, the adversary to all that is good.
So, whether we observe Lent or not, we are people who repent, and confess our sins, and fast.
And we are serious about it. We are serious about our role in opposing the adversary to all that is good. But we do not fast or repent or confess sins like people without hope. We know that resurrection is coming. We know that Easter is coming on April 16th this year. And we know that God has promised to bring the ultimate Easter someday.
And so, as we come to communion during Lent, we receive bread, the body of Christ broken for us. And we receive fruit that comes from the vine, the blood of Christ poured out for us.
For as often as we do this, we proclaim the Lord’s death (and then there’s there hope part) until he comes.
So, in this communion, we proclaim the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the teachings of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ…. And with great hope, we proclaim that he is coming again.
Let’s pray. Gracious and loving Lord, we give you praise for this bread and for the body of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As we share this bread in community, strengthen us in our weaknesses and teach us what it means to live as forgiven people. We give you praise for this cup and for the blood of your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As we share this cup in community, strengthen us in our weaknesses, and teach us what it means to live as forgiven people. In the name of Jesus we pray, Amen.
This communion meditation was shared by Sara Barton at the University Church of Christ in Malibu, California, in February 2016.