by Jonni Sliver
The young people of the Free Lutheran Church recently came home from the Brazilian version of FLY – the annual youth assembly that takes place every year during the five days of Carnaval. It isn’t just the Free Lutherans that hold their biggest retreats at this time of year, most evangelical churches do. I have always thought of it as the way the Church sought to escape the very worldly street celebration. But just recently my understanding has changed. I am beginning to think that both Carnaval and our FLY have exactly the same goal – starting from different points and ending at different points.
Carnaval is the five-day preparation for the season of Lent done by people who have no understanding of the amazing gift of life and redemption Jesus provided on the Cross. Carnaval is an opportunity to do anything and everything to please the flesh (Carne in Portuguese), to be followed by forty days of “penance”, ending in a magnificent celebration of chocolate eggs and cod (think lutefisk that doesn’t smell bad).
FLY, on the other hand, is a five-day preparation of the heart for hundreds of young people; understanding the power of the Risen Lord and learning to walk in it – a wonderful introduction to Lent! These young people set aside this time every year to affirm what a lot of us older Children of God tend to forget. That the deeper our love of the Lord grows, the clearer we see how much farther we have to go, how much room there still is to grow.
In Lent we not only contemplate the wondrous things God has done for us, but become aware of how much more He wants to do in and through us. 2 Cor. 3:8 tells us we are all being transformed, degree by degree into His sweet likeness. It is a process, and none of are complete, all of us have many, many degrees yet to come. Are you content in your walk with the Lord? Do you feel like you’re in a good place, and now you can coast just a bit? Don’t! God has more for you! Or are you on the other end, feeling like you haven’t made it and wondering if you ever will? This is the perfect moment to consider that EVERY good thing comes from the Father. We are transformed, we become like Him as HE works in us, as we surrender and let Him move! And Eph. 3:20 says, more specifically, that He has “exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or think”.
During these weeks of Lent I want to follow the example of my younger brothers and sisters and open my heart for all of the new that He has for me!