"When the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set his face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51). As Luke portrays it, about halfway into his ministry, Jesus turns toward suffering and death in fulfillment of his mission, and he asks his followers to go with him. This is the season of Lent, when we as Jesus' followers plunge into the paradox of the cross-before-glory gospel.
Lent is a season to remember; it is that time of year specifically set aside for us to remember that we are both finite beings destined to die as well as sinful people longing for forgiveness. And so through disciplines such as fasting, we cultivate a sense of dependency; through introspection, we take a posture of penitence; through self-denial, we put on a spirit of humility. And though this process is often painful, our God promises not to deal with us according to our sins, but rather he promises to deal with us as sons and daughters. Prepare your hearts and remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.