There is a new theme to Lent this year. I’m not sure how I got tangled up in it.
It is the theme of extravagance. Indulgence, even, if I should be so bold.
An old youth pastor from my hometown summed it up best with this Facebook update:
In the past, I have “given up” something for Lent; chocolate or coffee; Dr. Pepper or social media. And I learned tremendous things during those times. Lent is most definitely an appropriate time to practice self-denial in search of the Someone who truly satisfies.
But this year, there has been a shift. And this year, I need this shift.
At the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, some of the religious leaders questioned why Jesus and His disciples were not fasting on the Sabbath, as was the tradition. Jesus replies (Mark 2.19), “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the Groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the Groom is with them.”
This is such an image of hope, especially poignant as Jesus was beginning His widespread ministry. The first few chapters of Mark are chock full of healing and miracles, restoration and authority. Jesus is extravagant with His time, His words, His touch. It is a season of healing, so that His message can take firm root.
That hope is all throughout the message of the Gospel, but later is coupled with the intensity of the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the profound need to entrust His purpose to twelve fickle men.
But here, now, Jesus is nothing but extravagant.
Even reading Psalm 51, which is a common psalm of reflection of one’s sinful nature during the somber time of Lent, is – actually – a story of extravagance.
“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to Your unfailing love;
according to Your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.” (v. 1)
“Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet You desired faithfulness even in the womb;
You taught me wisdom in that secret place.” (v. 5,6)
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.” (v. 12)
God’s love is a richness undeserved. Though King David writes of his sinfulness and brokenness, the real story in this Psalm is God’s willingness to restore, in order for us to receive that impossible, effusive love.
God wants desperately for me to turn to Him because He alone has the power to erase the stench of guilt. And He not only has the power, but the longing to cleanse me and make me righteous.
God is richness. He is extravagant. He is decadent. And He offers an invitation to enjoy all that He is, all that He gives. Jesus taught us how God sees us, and Jesus’ death allows us to truly see God.
This particular season of Lent is one that I need, to be reminded of God’s richness, of His exquisite work to restore and renew. To remember that it is His elaborate plan, and a perfect one, and now I can be fully restored to righteousness. Now, I am worthy, and now I am unforgettable. Jesus has opened the floodgates of God’s unbridled favor over us. It is a windfall, and it is a glorious.
God, the Extravagant One, is the one at work here. He gathers us to Him just as we are, yet calls the Better Us to existence. He tirelessly pieces us back together because He sees us as more than the broken pieces suggest. He finds humility in our weaknesses, presses grace into our cracks, smooths out the wrinkles with mercy, and finishes us in the fires of His standard, a God standard, a standard worthy of the death of His Son. He is at work, recalling our inheritance, speaking that extravagant love over us every single day.
God is the One at work.