Once again we prepare to enter into the Lenten season as we journey through the Church Year. Lent, however, is its own kind of journey. Lent is the journey we make as we travel with Christ from the Mount of Transfiguration to Jerusalem where He will face the cross and the grave for our sakes. It is a very sobering trip, a journey that often struggles to find joy. But there is Easter!
This year our theme for our Lenten worship will focus upon the journey, but perhaps not in the way we usually walk it. Our overall theme will be “Return from Exile: A Lenten Journey.” All journeys must have a starting point; and in the preaching and teaching this Lenten season, we will consider our starting point a land of exile.
The land of exile from which we begin our journey is the wilderness of sin and death. Sin came into the world when our first parents were unfaithful and disobedient, eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve sinned, and we have inherited from them not only the sin itself, but also the result of that sin—separation from our Lord and God. From the first sin in the first garden, we have been exiled into the wilderness where we have wandered without any ability to find our way out.
This is the beginning of our journey: exile. But every journey also has a destination, an ending point. Our return from exile brings us into the promised land. Our relationship with our God is restored by Christ’s sacrifice. Our destination, then, is the perfect place, the new garden, the courts of heaven—the ultimate destination which was established for us by His death and resurrection. There is great joy in the journey as we see where our returning brings us; but there is also a somber attitude when we consider what Christ faced on account of our sin.
All journeys consist of many events that take place between the journey’s beginning and its end. Our Lenten journey is no different. Each leg of our Lenten journey begins in the Old Testament and then continues into the New Testament, pointing us to the joy that is ours in Christ Jesus. Do not be surprised to discover that from the very beginning, even outside the gates of the Garden of Eden, it is Christ who travels with us. He has always been our guide, from the very beginning, and He will journey with us to the very end. Indeed, He has even gone before us to prepare a heavenly dwelling place.
Life is full of journeys. Life itself is a journey. We enter this Lenten season contemplating the reality of our earthly journey but with eyes fixed on its destination—the empty tomb and the open gates of everlasting life. What joy there is in knowing that we do not walk this way alone!