My colleague Rev. Scott Hoezee, who is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching, recently posted a blog on Lent. He recalls how Lent was not part of his training as he grew up in a Christian Reformed Church, but he also invites us into the season of Lent. Click here to view his blog entry.
I will confess that my upbringing was very similar to Rev. Hoezee. Ash Wednesday was seen as part of being Roman Catholic and not something for a Protestant to partake in, especially if it meant actual ashes. We Protestants still had Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter. We had a Holy Week, but we did not have a season or a journey of preparation and reflection.
Even though I didn’t grow up practicing a Lenten journey, the older I get, the easier it is to enter into that journey of following Jesus to the cross. Part of my Lenten journey today is to remember. I remember an Easter Sunday when I was almost a teenager and what I felt after that service can only be described as “clean.” I understood with a clarity and depth as never before that Jesus died for my sins and He was with me.
I remember a faith story told about my grandfather, Julius, whose namesake I am and who died on a Palm Sunday. The family had gathered for their earthly goodbyes. Tears flowed and sobs could be heard. My grandfather asked those present why they were crying – didn’t they see who was standing in the corner of the room? They saw no one, but my grandfather said he saw Jesus. Hosanna! I have no doubt that Jesus the Savior was waiting for my grandfather.
As a pastor, I remember vividly my first funeral. A thirty-three old woman was killed in a car accident when another vehicle crossed the center line and struck her. She died on Maundy Thursday and that Easter Sunday I spoke with a passion that was especially inspired by that story of a life that conquered all death.
I remember stories and I remember names, and in my remembering I give thanks for Case and Karen Admiraal, Jerome DeJong, Bob DeVries, Len and Joanne Kamp. The list goes on as my heart names and remembers those who have been critical in my journey of faith.
Names are important. Memories are important.
At Calvin Seminary, we are inviting people to remember and then identify names for those who they would like to thank God for as part of their journey of faith. We are framing a new welcome area and entrance. When new students visit for the first time, we want them to remember the “cloud of witnesses” that has gone before them. When faculty, staff and students enter, we want to remember that we are part of a wider Christian community.
I recently had the opportunity to visit the W.W.II Museum in New Orleans. Just outside the museum are bricks where names are marked and remembered. I read those names and thought about the stories behind those names. We all have names and stories to remember.
We hope that this “naming a brick” opportunity is a spiritual exercise for you. Remember. Give thanks. Whether you place a name on a brick or not, give thanks for those who have guided your steps of faith as we all seek to follow Jesus.