And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.
Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.
During Lent we sometime get the cart before the horse. We know Lent is a time of preparation involving confession and repentance. We understand that Lent leads us Holy Week, the time we concentrate on the trial and death of Jesus. After all, isn't the central symbol of Christianity the cross? It does often seem like Lent, and maybe even Christian faith itself, is all about death.
But here in the very heart of Lent, the passage from the third chapter of the Gospel of John provides a bright reminder that all of this repentance and confession, fasting and contemplation, prayer and introspection is not about fear or death. It is about love and life!
"For God so loved the world.. that everyone who believes... may have eternal life." In the very early chapters of his Gospel, John makes clear that the central story is going to be about Jesus sacrificing himself for all of us. But in maybe the most often quoted line of Scripture, John insists that it is love and life that matter most.
This is not about condemnation, about proving how unworthy we are to receive the gift of God's love. It is about salvation. It is not about the dark. It is about light overcoming darkness.
But it also is not Easter, yet...
But it is also not Easter, yet. We have a ways to go before the glory of resurrection. We have a ways to go before eternal life. But the point of Easter, the promise of God so loving the world, is that the path we follow in Lent, and in all of our earthly days, is meant to be a path of life! God does not want us to dwell on death. God wants us to be able to look past death to see promise and purpose in living.
God wants us to find the beauty, the resilience, the promise of life even in our coldest or darkest moments.
This message is a crucial one for Christians during this COVID-time. Even in the midst of a devastating pandemic we are to choose life. We choose life by wearing masks, safely separating ourselves from others, and getting vaccinated when it is our turn. We choose life by finding new uses for our talents and gifts. We choose life by finding ways to love one another in spite of the the demands and constraints of this unusual time.
So, we have a ways to go before the pandemic will be behind us, just as we have some time to go before we leave Lent for Easter. The very point of Lent is that, even as we make our way to and through Lent and Holy Week, we worship the God of Light, the God who so loves us that He gave his only Son, that we (yes we!) may know life!
This Lent is
Not to dwell on death
But on death’s own demise
On its futility as the
Defining context of life
Of death losing its sting
And thus to dwell on life
In this Lent
Its fullness and purpose
To free us from death’s grip
For God so loved the world
That is this Lent
Yours in Christ,
Poetry and photos by Russell Willis