This coming Wednesday, March 1, marks the beginning of the Lenten season this year. I used to think of Lent primarily as a somber time of suffering, self-denial, repentance. In other words a time for me to feel great sorrow which for me also meant guilt and shame over how far I fell short from living up to God’s standards. And then a few years ago I attended my first Lenten Retreat at Corhaven. While Bill Haley led us in an exercise of reflecting on how we have drifted, the primary image I walked away with was of the Prodigal Son’s father running to receive him when he came back to his senses and came home. That awareness has profoundly changed how I experience Lent. Rather than being dominated by feelings of shame and guilt I now find myself waking up from where I have drifted, looking for love and life in places that can never fully satisfy and running home into the arms of my adoring, generous Father who can’t wait to welcome me home.
I can now embrace Lent as a season of preparation for the celebration of life that comes with Jesus’s resurrection on Easter Sunday. Now, for Jesus, great suffering preceded His victorious resurrection and I am increasingly appreciative of Paul’s encouragement for us to share in Jesus’s sufferings, to identify with His pain on our behalf, so that we can also more fully enter into His joy and it was joy that enabled him to take on the pain that was born out of love for us. So does Lent offer an invitation to repentance? Absolutely. It offers it in the fullest sense of the word — of coming to our senses and reconsidering the strategies we have been pursuing to find life without God. Repentance is coming home. Lent also offers us the opportunity to remember and identify with Jesus’s suffering born out of love.
I’m excited that this year the Coracle team in Baltimore will be able to offer the same retreat that was so transforming for me at Corhaven several years ago. On March 11th we will gather at Greg and Kit Elmer’s house from 9:30-5. In the morning we will reflect on where we have drifted and respond to our Father’s invitation to come home and let Him lavish His love on us. In the afternoon we will identify with Jesus’s sacrificial suffering as we reflect on the various steps he took during the hours leading up to His crucifixion. Built into the day will be a significant time for us to be alone with God before we close by celebrating communion together. All are welcome who sense a hunger to connect more deeply with Jesus this Easter season. You can go here to register. Whether you are able to join us or not I encourage you to take time this season to reflect again on Luke 15:11-32 and how lavish the Father’s love is for us. May we all come to share more fully the trust in our Father’s love that Jesus knew so well filling Him with peace and joy even in the midst of suffering.