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The Journey through Lent to Easter

            By now we are about halfway through the observance of Lent.  Easter this year falls on Sunday, April 12, 2009.
            Lent as you know, is that season in the Christian calendar of forty days (plus six Sundays) of preparation for the celebration of Easter.  Christians in the past, and many today, have used and are using this period of Lent to prepare candidates for baptism that were and are going to be baptized on Easter Sunday.  What was an observance and practice for those who were going to be baptized became an observance and practice for all Christians.
            During Lent, Christians have been reflecting on temptation, sin, repentance, God’s grace, God’s will and the cost of following it or not.  We have heard how Jesus was triumphant over the temptations he confronted while fasting for 40 days and nights in the wilderness, in contrast to the people of Israel who where unfaithful to God as they were tempted in the desert while wandering there for forty years.  Jesus was triumphant and was able to teach and live the kingdom of God by example, while the Israelites failed and none of those who were wandering in the desert (with the exception of two) were allowed to enter the Promised Land.
            We have read how Jesus tells his disciples that he would suffer, be rejected, and killed, but on the third day will resurrect, and warns them that if anyone wants to be his disciple they must take up their own cross and follow him.  From here comes the idea and practice of sacrificing or giving up something during Lent, for it helps us to recall the great sacrifice Christ made for us and our need to take up our own cross to follow him. 
            Lent ends during Holy Week.  Even during that last week when Jesus was at the garden of Gethsemane, he struggles with and overcomes the temptation of avoiding the path of the cross when he says, “Father, everything is possible for you.  Take this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will.”           
            Jesus knew that his journey from Galilee to Jerusalem would place him in direct confrontation with Rome.  His passion in life was to preach and teach by example the reality of God’s Kingdom on earth, which showed how life would be like if God and not Caesar were sitting on Caesar’s throne.  Rome only accepted one kingdom and that kingdom was the Roman Empire.  The emperor was Lord and God. 
            Jesus ends up being crucified by the Temple and Roman authorities on Friday of that week for what he believed in and how he lived his life.  Jesus loved us wastefully, and gave his life for us freely.  But the journey doesn’t end on Friday with his crucifixion. 
            On Sunday, God says yes to Jesus and no to Rome.  On Easter Sunday God vindicates Jesus demonstrating that Jesus was right and Rome was wrong. 
            Paul, quoting what is probably an early Christian hymn in his letter sent to the Christian community in Philippi writes referring to Jesus, “He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross.  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  
              Our journey through Lent to Easter teaches us that God has the last word.  It teaches us that God has the power to transform death into life, to transform an apparent end into a new beginning, and a hopeless situation into unlimited possibilities.  Jesus said, “I have come to give you life and to give it abundantly.”  Let’s keep the faith, for the Lord has risen!  He has risen indeed!