Editor’s Note: Today’s guest column was written by Karen Neuforth.
Lent. Do you know the origins of that word? It tracks back through Middle English to Old English to an Old High German word, lenzin, meaning spring. Liturgically, of course, Lent is the 40 weekdays from Ash Wednesday to Easter, a time some Christian denominations observe as a period of penitence and fasting. But, whether one envisions the natural transition from the dark and cold of winter to the light and fresh growth of spring or contemplates the determined path taken by Jesus of Nazareth toward death at Golgotha and resurrection, the final outcome is rebirth and hope.
Being of a protest-ant frame of mind, while acknowledging the uncomfortable questions and disquieting truths Christians are asked to consider during this season, I don’t see Lent as a time for guilt trips. For me, it is a time to reflect on our place on this planet, our relationships with our neighbors and, yes, even our enemies. It is a time to open the windows of our souls, let the fresh hope of rebirth and resurrection blow through and banish the darkness and fear. “Do not be afraid,” God told Abram, and the psalmist sang, “God is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? God is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”
Maybe we should be afraid of ourselves. So many words and ideas, rooted in fear and hatred, are spewing forth in local and national media and across the Internet, that it gets harder and harder to avoid being infected by them. Falsehoods and half-truths are used to frighten and manipulate. Partisanship blocks dialog in the greater interest. Religious figures espouse inequality, prejudice and internecine conflicts. And, so much of it is done “in the name of God” that I think we owe God a really big apology.
It can be all too easy to let fear take over and forget to keep in mind God’s covenants with all of humankind – especially the instructions in the Gospel of Matthew to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you …” Faced with war and terrorism, illness and death, natural and man-made disasters, ethnic and religious hatred, hunger and homelessness, we need to remember that faith in God’s love can help us face anything.
“Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.” — Corrie ten Boom (1892-1983)