Here is a strange thing that reminds me of Lent: Blockbuster video. Remember Blockbuster video stores? I remember when they didn't exist. Nothing like being around at the birth of a mega industry and also being around at its death to make one feel one's mortality.
And that is what Lent makes us feel, especially as it drags forward into its third and fourth weeks. Gone is that Ash Wednesday euphoria when it felt so different to feel that heavy pastoral thumb pushing ashes on your forehead and to contemplate giving up for Lent that special something. Novelty, even if it is a cross shaped proclamation of your sin and condemnation, can be refreshing.
But now Lent begins to grate. It does feel heavy. That Blockbuster store on the corner now sells mattresses. And that 70 year old man who used to sit ahead of you in the pew got sick and in a couple of weeks he was gone. Gone. Dead. You had to go to his funeral. And every week there are no alleluias and the hymns hit a little harder and go a little slower and Good Friday is coming. We can give it big words, we can call it mortality, we can rehearse it or avoid it with stories or distractions but Lent is about the fact that your life must end. That God designed an eternal fellowship and communion with you and it has been ruptured by you. You have chosen yourself and now you face the end of that self you chose. Your life, the only one you know, the one your senses cry out to you is the only one there is, the one filled with created good and joy, is coming to a halt.
That is the ultimate message of Lent: the awareness of sin and death. Blockbuster video stores are born and they go away and they remind you that you will go away. You will get sick. Or there will be an accident. You will get old and will no longer be able to care for yourself. Sooner or later your mind and senses and flesh will fail you.
Lent is like a city bus that has only one stop: the graveyard. But that bus stop is not just any graveyard it is Jesus cross. Lent drops you off there at Calvary with the Son of God yelling, "My God, why have you abandoned me?". And there in that darkness you wait for Easter.
Lent is long. Easter cannot come soon enough. I want to sing alleluia. I want to eat breakfast in the parish hall after singing "He's Risen, He's Risen." I want resurrection and life that does not end.