Thursday: Psalm 1-2; Joel 1.13-20; John 1.19-34

From: John ZuHone

Lent is probably my least favorite season of the church year. I mean, what sounds exciting about this, from today's Old Testament reading?

"Put on sackcloth, you priests, and mourn;
    wail, you who minister before the altar.
Come, spend the night in sackcloth,
    you who minister before my God;
for the grain offerings and drink offerings
    are withheld from the house of your God."

Some Christians are uncomfortable with Lent, because it’s easily turned into an occasion for legalistic rituals with little meaning for those who practice them. I wish my discomfort with it was that high-minded, but it's not. Nope—in my case, it's because I am reluctant to give up my creature comforts, whether they be food, coffee, social media, or a host of other things. It would be nice if my life looked more like that of the Psalmist, who extolled the one "whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night."
 
We cannot earn favor with God through fasting or self-denial, no matter how fervent it may be. He gives it freely as a gift through Christ, the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." Within that freedom, however, Christ calls us to a better way—a way that asks us to step away from all the things we think we "need" to live, and to think instead of our need for God and the needs of others. This is why we have Lent—a deliberate time to for us to reflect on how we ourselves are the reason God's world doesn't run like it should, to repent of our misdeeds, receive God's grace, and ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to serve God and neighbor—especially the neglected, marginalized, and those who cannot speak up for themselves. This, by God’s grace, is what I hope to make this Lent about.

I’m an astrophysicist at the Harvard Observatory, studying galaxy clusters and X-ray astronomy. I enjoy spending time with my wife, having good conversation with friends, reading books, and playing the occasional Mario game.