Some who read my weekly ponderings know that I am Baptist. Baptists have provided my heritage, my education, and my employment for the past 33 years. Some readers care about that, but I think it is irrelevant to most. I don’t make a big deal about it because I try to keep my writing focused on the larger community of faith and even offer words that are encouraging and helpful (hopefully) to those who have not yet embraced that community.
One benefit of doing life in the same community for 26 years is that it makes possible trusting relationships that supersede labels. It can also result in invitations that might never be possible if all one is known by is a denominational brand name.
Such an invitation came to me a few weeks back to participate as one of a series of devotional speakers during the Lenten season. I was actually not the only Baptist asked to speak. The other one has also been in the community for almost two decades and is a dear friend. I was not there to hear his message, nor was he there to hear mine, but I understand that both of us publicly admitted a similar dilemma: We are Baptists! What do we know about Lent?
Now since my Baptist preacher friend is much more polished and distinguished and much less, shall we say “warped” than I, he probably didn’t mention that all he knew about lint was that it came from the dryer screen, the pants pocket, or maybe the bellybutton. But I did.
Neither, I assume, did he produce a ziplock bag of dryer lint and assure the gathered worshipers that it did indeed come from the dryer and not from the bellybutton. But I did. (I told you he was a higher class of speaker).
After admitting my limited knowledge of Lent and sharing some internet research I did to catch myself up as much as possible, I shared two thoughts on this season of reflection and sacrifice. As we approach the end of the Lenten season, I share them now with you, whether you are a faithful observant or just hear it mentioned occasionally.
One lesson from the Lenten season is that our own personal sacrifices are inadequate. No matter how much we give up or sacrifice, we will never sacrifice enough to make ourselves acceptable to God. We are only acceptable to God because of the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. It is good for us to remember that Jesus was not just a nice guy who shared some good thoughts about love and kindness. He was God in flesh, whose sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty for the sins of every person who ever has or will inhabit this planet. That’s how much our lives matter.
A second lesson of the Lenten season is that the community of faith is bigger than our labels. In heaven, I won’t be known as a Baptist, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to make that a litmus test of who I talk with, listen to, and learn from in my current location. We don’t all have to “do it” the same way to be sharers in the Kingdom of God.
And I didn’t just pull that out of my pocket.