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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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April 6, 2006

The hope of Lent

There was something about the setting for the last midweek evening Lenten service of the season that made the reading hit home.

Daylight faded over the busy street on Chicago’s North Side. The temperature dropped while the wind gained speed on what had been a decent spring day. The huge interior of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Luke seemed particularly dark. The pre-service music, “Passion Chorale” by Hans Leo Hassler, a tune used multiple times by J.S. Bach, further set the somber scene.

Confession on bended knee, routinely employed at St. Luke, seemed to focus on the rushing urgency of the season, with Holy Week just a few days away.

Then, among the readings, there was Philippians 3:4-14. In the midst of a small but faithful group that gathered each Wednesday, Paul’s words resonated.

“For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

“Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

The time of Lent has been full of reflection, complete with internal surveys of shortcomings, missed opportunities, areas in need of renewed effort. And now here comes Paul with the hope that springs from Easter, the promise found in Jesus after the journey of Lent.

The Hassler hymn, LBW 116, starts with “O sacred head, now wounded” and ends with “For he who dies believing dies safely in thy love.” The trip from darkness to light was about to end. Suddenly, it was not so dark.

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