The Reason for Lent
If the 2016 Presidential candidate could have delivered on his platform, he would have won the election. His name was Zoltan Istvan. He ran under the banner of the Transhumanist Party, whose sole purpose for the citizens of our country is for them to “become god-like and overcome death.”
Unlike the conventional candidates, Istvan’s bus was not decked out in red, white and blue, nor did it possess stars and stripes. Instead his bus, which he dubbed the “Immortality Bus,” was a large brown RV which was modified to look like a coffin. Of this contraption, he said, “I’m hoping [it] will become an important symbol in the growing longevity movement around the world. It will be my way of challenging the public’s apathetic stance on whether dying is good or not.”
I think we’re on board, aren’t we? Isn’t life something we’d all like to hold on to? I’m not sure where he gets this impression that we are apathetic toward death’s goodness. I know no one who calls death good. Unfortunately, despite the most valiant attempts, the Transhumanist Party will not succeed in its mission. We are all too familiar with the curse spoken by God to Adam in Genesis 3:19 which has sealed our fate: “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
The Lenten season uniquely reminds us of this truth. As the seasons commences, it does so with the message of Ash Wednesday reminding us of our “dustness.” It forces us to observe the stark and final nature of our sin’s consequences. Despite how devastating this may be, we need to see the disparity between our thoughts, words and actions and the perfect expression of God’s will for us given in his law. When we do, we “will find nothing in us but sin and death from which we cannot set ourselves free,” as one Holy Communion liturgy aptly notes. The Lenten season directs our gaze inwardly to see, as God sees, what our hearts are actually like. When we do it grieves us.
With these uncomfortable reminders, the Lenten journey can seem like a dark and lonely road that we’d prefer not to travel. But Lent, although a sober season, is not a season of despair. Rather, it’s a season which offers a message of hope and forgiveness. It’s a season bookended by certain death—our own and Christ’s. Ash Wednesday reminds us of the certainty of our death. Good Friday reminds us of the certainty that, not only in spite of, but because of our sin, Jesus was nailed to a cross, where he died to bring us life. The disparity of our sin and God’s perfection was reconciled through Christ’s death and by it our debt was paid in full (Colossians 1:22).
God, who is steadfast in his love and rich in his mercy, wants us to see our helplessness so that we turn to him. And when we do we find a Savior, who has accomplished everything needed for our forgiveness. He has succeeded where the Transhumanists have and will always fail. Their goal is to keep us alive in the state in which we are currently. God’s intention is to deliver us from that state. He has come to bring both eternal life and eternal redemption from our curse. To see this and believe it is the goal of Lent. In doing so we are assured that though by reason of sin you and I will return to the dust, yet through Christ’s work, from that dust we will one day rise again.