We make a lot of promises at the beginning of the year – promises to do better, to change bad habits. We get to Lent, and we swear to give something up for a season or to try a new practice – additional prayer, mission projects, walking every day. But why do we make these promises?
At the beginning of January, a new calendar year brings a sense of a fresh new start with a year’s worth of possibilities. And as Lent starts after a season of celebrating (did you know the celebrations are supposed to start on Epiphany, January 6, and go all the way to Fat Tuesday?), we are more than ready to renew whatever New Year’s promises we made.
Lent is indeed supposed to be a time of creating a new start. But, it is not simply about changing your habits for six weeks and then going back to our old ways. Lent was created as a time for new converts to Christianity to learn more about their new faith and to shed their old lives…forever. Catechumens who wished to be baptized memorized creeds, fasted, confessed sins, sold possessions, and learned what it meant to be part of a community in the Body of Christ.
When we join together with the Body of Christ, we are responding to a promise, but not a promise that we make. From years of making New Year’s resolutions, giving up things for Lent, and just being human, we know that we are terrible at keeping our promises. Yes, we have hope, we try, but we fail again and again.
However, God’s promise to us, God’s covenant with us, is that we are loved no matter what. God will not destroy us when we fail. God will keep giving us the love, the forgiveness and the guidance that we need. God even came to us in Jesus, into a body as fragile as any of ours, to show us that even these fragile lives can be lived in a different way. We are not identified by the failures that we experience; instead we are identified as beloved children of God – even death cannot change that.
So we fail. And we fall. And we will do it again. But we join together in the Body of Christ to prevent us from stumbling, to help each other back up when we do, and to remind each other that we are loved and are forgiven. We are able to be part of a covenant people not because we are perfect, but because God is. God will continue to help us keep our side of the covenant – to live new lives and be made whole – because that is what God has promised.
God continues to make us new each day. Where is God creating new life in you? Are you being called to deepen your prayer life, or study? Perhaps you are feeling a call to try a different ministry area or to start a new ministry. You may be ready to be baptized. Sit with God, pay attention to what is tugging at your heart, talk to others in the community – friends, pastors, leaders. Look for the new life that God has planted in you.
In a Lent season when we are reminded of all the promises God has already made and fulfilled to us, in us, and through us, where is that promise leading you now? Join us as we renew our covenant with God.