I recently entered into an older church for a meeting. The moment I stepped through the door, my senses were flooded with the smells, sights, and even the temperature of my childhood church. Though I had never set foot in this particular church, I felt like I was walking back through memories from over forty years ago and half a country away. Even as we walk through places, we enter times past and present and possibly even future.
The Lenten season is a time of remembering our own baptism even as we remember those who entered the faith over a thousand years ago and half a world away. At the same time, we are rehearsing stories of Jesus, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Moses, Isaac, Abraham, Noah, and more. Just as old churches can carry tangible memories from another age, Lenten stories and practices evoke memories and feelings of a people walking through places while living as a single family in time.
In Jesus Christ, we have been grafted into an ancient family and the story of this family. Our story actually plays a vital role in the overall family picture. Every story in this family overlaps like the rays of a stained glass window, creating various shades of struggle and suffering alongside joy and love. Together all reflect the absolute faithfulness of the Lord from age to age.
Your faith and my faith are not lived in isolation from the whole. The writer of Hebrews offers a brief overview of God’s people from across the ages, and then he writes, 39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Heb 11:39–40).
If we think of perfect as the completed image, we begin to see how all the stories of God’s people seen together will reveal a perfect masterpiece of God’s lovingkindness and beauty. As we look forward to the Feast of the Resurrection, let us pay attention to stories and people: both old and new. Listen with expectation that saints from ages past have something to reveal to you even as you pay attention to those on pilgrimage with you today. Together we all watch and wait for the resurrection of all things in Jesus Christ our Lord.