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This issue of The Echo is the one that will come out for March 2024. That means I feel I should be writing about Easter. (This is especially true since I wrote about Lent last month.) The fact of the matter is that more than a full month will pass between the publishing of this little reflection and our actual keeping of Easter. The way the calendar falls this year means we will spend the month of March waiting for Easter. What is convenient, especially for the purpose of this message, is that we are used to waiting. (At least we should be!) This is because the church gives us a whole roughly month-long season of waiting each year during Advent and we kept that season not too long ago.
One of the key figures during Advent is John the Baptist. This is because his primary work is to prepare the way for the first coming of Jesus in his birth at Bethlehem. I have long thought (and written in other places) that John the Baptist can be equally crucial to our keeping of Lent as he is to our keeping of Advent. I say this because John the Baptist’s two main themes—Repentance and Baptism—fit just as well in Lent as they do in Advent.
Lent invites us to repent. Repentance is a central biblical teaching. A glossary provided by Luther Seminary in Minnesota, which I often use, gives what I consider a helpful definition of repentance. “All people are sinful and God desires that all people repent of their sins. The Hebrew word for repent means to “turn away” from sin. The Greek word for repentance means to “change one’s mind,” more specifically, it means to change one’s mind about sin. Thus, to repent is not just to feel bad about sin or admit that one is sinful, but to turn away from sin and back to God and God’s way.”

Baptism is the means by which the gift of God’s love and acceptance sets us on God’s way of living. In fact, Lent has its roots in the time converts to Christianity (called catechumens) spent in intense preparation for their baptism at Easter. After Baptism, they symbolically became new branches on the Christian vine (called neophytes). The Early church reinterpreted Lent after Christianity gained legitimacy under Constantine. This reinterpretation personalized turning from sin and emphasized remembering our own baptisms as one way to help do that since God’s way leads through death to life.
Lent—like Advent—emphasizes the arrival of God’s salvation. That was true at Christmas when Jesus was born. That remained true when God raised Christ from the dead to give us the harvest of righteousness. In our life together as God’s people, we revisit these arrivals of God’s salvation as we await God’s final triumph at the fulfillment of time. So, throughout this month of March, Repentance and Baptism pave the way of God’s path to the joy of Easter.
Live as children of light!
Pastor Scott Paradise