When my children were little, bedtime rituals always included a story. I truly enjoyed reading to my kids. It was one of the favorite parts of my day. But I have to admit that, after a while, I got a little tired of reading the same stories. Although we had shelves filled with children's books, they always seemed to ask for the same ones, over and over again. One can only read about Thomas the Tank Engine's surprise party so many times before starting to go slowly insane. Those stories always began the same way and ended the same way. The pictures never changed. The words never changed.
As I think back on it, perhaps that's why my kids liked hearing them again and again: It was comforting. It was comforting for them to know that these beloved stories didn't change. There were no shocks and no surprises. They were stable and solid and constant.
Last week, the Christian Church entered the season called Lent. For the next six weeks, many Christians will be hearing a very familiar story - the story of the suffering and death of Jesus, leading up to the story of his resurrection from the dead. We've all heard this story before. Many times. We all know how Jesus was betrayed by his disciple Judas, and arrested in Gethsemane. We've heard about his trials that night and how Peter denied him three times. We've read about the beatings and the whip and the crown of thorns. We know about the nails and the spear. We've all heard the words Jesus spoke from the cross, "Father, forgive them," "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" and, "It is finished." And we all know about the empty tomb of Easter and the appearance of a living, risen Jesus.
So why hear these things again? Why go through another Lenten journey to the cross? The story never changes. It always ends the same. So what's the point? The point is the same as why my kids wanted to hear the same stories night after night: It's comforting. It's comforting for us to be reminded that although our sins have separated us from our God, he did something about them. It's comforting to hear that our God had mercy on us and was willing to give up his one and only Son for us. It's comforting to remember that our Savior Jesus loved us enough to give up his life for us. It gives us joy and peace to be told once more that our sins are forgiven - every one of them. And it gives us unspeakable comfort to know that our Lord has conquered death, and that we share in that victory.
Listen again to the familiar story of Lent. Hear once more about what it took to pay for your sins. Be reminded yet again that the paradise of heaven is yours. The story of Lent will end the way it always does. Thank God!
- Brent Merten is pastor of Mountain Valley Lutheran Church, 802 Brush Creek Terrace, Eagle, which offers Lenten services each Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.