As I write this we are in the middle of one of the worst flu seasons in a decade, with at least eight more weeks to go. Schools have been closed in eleven states. Some emergency rooms are so overrun that triage tents have been set up outside. To date there have been an estimated 30,000,000 victims, with 30,000 fatalities, thirty-seven of them being children. Gloomy comparisons to the Spanish Flu Epidemic of 1917-1918 are surfacing in the press.

Also, as I write this we are approaching the church’s season of Lent, the eight weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Lent is a hard sell to people who have written off the church or never tried it in the first place. It begins in ashes on the forehead as you remember your mortality, continues through the tense tests of discipleship provoked as Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem, and ends in Jesus’ intense prayer struggle with God in the Gethsemane garden, his sentencing before the authorities, and the death on a cross.

Some people want God to be exclusively about happiness, success, and well-being. A God who cares most that we have long and abundant lives, that we get ahead and feel good. A God of the strong and the winners. A God who bears a striking resemblance to their status symbols. Such a God has little to say to people suffering from flu, cancer, arthritis, MS, Alzheimer’s, or the myriad of ordinary aches and pains that tarnish our daily lives.

But God-for-real carries a cross in his heart. God’s story has a chapter called the passion of Jesus (a.k.a., Lent) and that chapter never goes away even though it is followed by a most happy reversal, Jesus’ resurrection. Lent comes around every year because every year we need to be reminded again of the character of our God. He hears the cries of his people in captivity (Ex 3:7). He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds (Ps 147:3). And in his son Jesus – we recall this most pointedly in Lent – he sympathizes with us in our weakness. God gets it!

Pastor Lew