This past Sunday, we celebrated the Transfiguration of Jesus, when Peter, James, and John got a hint of glory there on the top of the mountain. Not all churches celebrate this event right before Lent, but apparently the United Methodist Church does “so that we may be strengthened to bear our cross and be changed into his likeness” during the Wilderness Season between now and Easter. Though I’ve been attending a Methodist Church now for more than four years, this was the first year I understood that connection.
I liked the “sneak peek,” as our pastor called it. I liked the chance consider the weight of glory now, just before we travel again to the cross, where the weight of suffering feels overwhelming. But there’s another reason I am thankful that we focused on the transfigured Jesus just three days before Ash Wednesday: during Lent, it’s tempting to focus too much on myself, and transfiguration reminded me that it’s all … everything … is really about Him.
See, I’ve already spent a good amount of time thinking about what I am going to give up during Lent. I want to do something meaningful: I want to give up something that will change me, that will help me become more holy and compassionate. I’d also like to give up something that will allow me find a more direct connection between my physical and spiritual realities, something that offers more time for prayer and contemplation. It all sounds so spiritual and important.
But it’s also all about me, about what I’ll do or not do. And just when I’m supposed to be growing closer to Jesus and considering his suffering and sacrifice, it sounds like I’m more concerned about my own suffering and sacrifice during this wilderness season. If I’m not careful, I may use Lent as a way to try to save myself, instead of an opportunity to understand anew how very much I need a Savior.
I’ve benefitted greatly over the years from making a Lenten fast. Years ago, a pastor challenged me to replace what I give up with something I add to my life, like service or giving, and that, too, has been an important way to mark the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, when the whole earth seems to be preparing for Resurrection. But this year, I also need to find a way to make it less about me, less about my fast and sacrifice, less about my journey in the Wilderness, and more about Jesus’s suffering on the cross and the miracle of the empty tomb.
That’s what I call glory.
How do you observe Lent each year? Are you doing anything different this year?