Today is the last Wednesday of Lent.
To be honest I always feel a bit of relief when we get to this point in Lent.
Sometimes Lent can feel long.
This time of fasting, repentance, and prayer can even feel like a burden.
Maybe you feel that way as well.
We want to jump immediately to Easter without first taking the journey through Lent.
I know that this is how I often feel.
Each year just as Lent begins, I find myself counting down the days until Easter.
But as Lent progresses I am reminded that we cannot get to Easter without first going through Lent.
We need this time.
This past week I read an interesting story.
A silkworm was struggling to come out of his cocoon. A man saw it struggling and tried to help it along. He saw it battling as if in pain and so he worked to set it free. Soon after it was freed it died. The other silkworms nearby that struggled to come out on their own came out into full and beautiful life. They flew away. It seems that in the struggle their wings were made strong for the battle of life.
In a similar way we need this time of spiritual discipline where we intentionally return back to God and where we create meaningful space in our lives in order to listen more deeply to God.
We need this time to grow spiritual strong in our faith.
Now we have almost completed the spiritual work.
We are almost to the end of Lent.
This is Holy Week.
We anticipate even now the great three days of Lent.
Tomorrow is Maundy Thursday where we remember Jesus last supper with his disiples.
In two days it will be Good Friday.
On Good Friday we journey with our Lord to the cross.
Three days from now on Holy Saturday we wait at the tomb with great hope in Jesus’ resurrection.
And then comes Easter.
On Easter we celebrate the great joy of our faith that Jesus is indeed the resurrection and the life.
As Lent comes to an end this week I encourage you to think about how you experienced Lent this year.
Reflect upon both the challenges you faced this Lent along with the lessons that you learned during Lent.
This Lent felt particularly long this year because of our need for social distancing.
I have been speaking about the spiritual discipline of solitude and how that practice of seeking out quiet space has taken on completely new meaning this Lent.
But solitude and social distancing has felt like a great burden to be endured this Lent.
It has been a long Lent for us this year.
The ways in which we anticipate and look forward to Easter this year are greater than ever.
We have hope that one day things will get better and that the promise of new life in and through Christ will be fully realized.
And so my main hope this evening is to encourage us to continue down the road of faith and trust.
Have faith in the promises of God.
Trust in the work of the Holy Spirit in your life and in the life of the world.
Do not become discouraged and loose faith.
This past week I spoke with someone who is struggling with their faith.
They told me that God seems far away and that the Bible is simply words that are made up.
Especially during difficult seasons of life it might be tempting to give into doubt.
But doubt can pave the wave for deeper faith.
Doubt can force us into spiritual awakening.
Because the Holy Spirit can work through our doubts and struggles just as much as the Holy Spirit can work through our strengths and our beliefs.
I think about the verse from the Gospel of Mark chapter nine verse twenty-three.
We hear these words from a father who is asking Jesus for healing for his child. “I believe; help my unbelief.”
I have experienced in my own life that when I am dealing with some kind of challenge or difficulty or weakness in my faith I am only a step away from deeper spiritual insight and awareness.
That is the process of growing in faith.
We encounter challenges in our lives and in our faith lives.
We wrestle and struggle through that and then we receive new life and new spiritual victory.
That is the rythmn of Lent.
A period of wilderness. A time of struggle and then Easter.
It is important to remember that Easter always follows Lent.
In life it might be too tempting to struggle and wrestle in our faith and then forget that Easter is coming.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
This means that behind every doubt, under every struggle, around every challenge lies the gift of resurrection and new life.
Lent and Easter.
For Christians the two always go together.
We need both.
Jesus experienced both in his life.
He asked that God would save him from his suffering on the cross.
But still he endured the cross.
But after the cross just three days later he rose from the dead.
God did not spare Jesus from the cross.
In his life Jesus experienced both the pain of the cross and the joy of the resurrection.
Now through the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord we journey with Jesus to meet God.
Through Jesus we meet God.
But we need to walk in life in the same way that Jesus walked on earth.
Facing the head on the struggles of life.
Praying, fasting, and turning to God again and again and again.
Going to the place of solitude.
Opening up our Bibles.
Praying for one another.
Entering more deeply into the spiritual practices that draw us to God.
What was your spiritual practice this Lent?
My spiritual practice this Lent was to look for ways to be a blessing to others.
This practice has taken on a completely different shape than I first anticipated at the beginning of Lent.
To bless someone is to hope for God’s favor and for God’s gifts to be upon the person.
To bless someone else is to hope for the best for that person.
It is to believe in God’s promises for that person.
In closing I would like to leave you with a song.
I pray that this song would be a blessing.
(To hear the song go to Williams Bay Lutheran Church Facebook Page.)