Lent – a bit different this year…
Dear friends in Christ,
A blessed Holy Week to all of you! Those of you who receive these digitally will get our newsletter before Easter. For those of you who receive this via regular mail, it will be after Easter. The season of Lent here in Latvia has been unlike other Lent observances we have experienced in the US.
The Latvian Lutherans observe Lent with a kind of vigor that we do not often find in the States. Many of them actually practice the historic Lenten fast rather than the modernized version of “giving up” something small. Midweek Lenten services also happen in many of the congregations here, but we personally, as a family, have not been able to avail ourselves of those services.
We are able to have worship in English twice a month, and on the “off Sundays,” we attend church at a Latvian congregation near our apartment. It is a wonderful congregation and a beautiful church, but the language barrier makes it difficult. Nonetheless, we can receive the Lord’s Body and Blood in the Sacrament every week, which is incredible.
Additionally, there is chapel for Luther Academy every week on Monday evenings, so there is an opportunity to hear preaching in English. But for Lent, hearing English preaching was not an option.
I have long said that, without the long journey of Lent, Easter loses some of its luster. As we are in Holy Week, I can acutely feel that truth. Nonetheless, Easter is coming, and we rejoice that we will be able to have an English Easter celebration as well.
Understand that I do not share this to be a bummer or to elicit sympathy. Instead, I hope you take this message as an opportunity to not take what you have for granted. Rejoice if you can worship in your native language (or at least a language you know well enough to get something out of the preaching). For, if and when you don’t have the chance, it is something that is missed. But also, I encourage you to join me in rejoicing in the unity and continuity of the Church. We can gather together with fellow Lutherans to receive the Sacrament of the Altar. While we do not enjoy the level of fellowship that we would have with others in a congregation that we know, we all speak the same language of faith.
The joy of faith and the gift of the Church is that when we gather around the altar, all divisions cease. It doesn’t matter where someone is from, what language they speak, or who they are. We all kneel as beggars before our Lord, who graciously feeds and strengthens us. He does this out of his divine love and mercy for his people. We rejoice at being able to receive these gifts. May the Lord bless your Easter season as you gather together with others to celebrate his victory over death – a victory that he shares with us!
In Christ’s service,