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Faith: A difficult Lenten journey

The season of Lent began on Valentine's Day this year. Sooty black ashes and bright red hearts are a strange mix. Then confronted with the heinous massacre that took the lives of 17 at the high school in Parkland, Florida, on that very day, and it's no wonder our heads are spinning, trying to come to grips with it from a Christian perspective.

During Lent, Christians traditionally focus their hearts and minds on the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. With the school shooting occupying our thoughts and vying for our attention, we perhaps are experiencing some difficulty taking the Lenten journey.

Speaking of the death of Jesus, on the night before His crucifixion, He said to His disciples, "Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13). On Sunday, Feb. 25, I listened to "The Lutheran Hour" broadcast on KTIG radio at 5 p.m. The preacher, the Rev. Ken Klaus, had the following excerpt:

"Today's message started out by telling you of a Medal of Honor winner. I'd like to finish the same way. This time I'm talking about Ross McGinnis, an Army specialist who was serving in Baghdad on Dec. 4, 2006. Specialist McGinnis was manning the .50-caliber machine gun on top of his armored vehicle when one of the enemy threw a fragmentation grenade inside. Nineteen-year-old McGinnis called out, 'Grenade! It's in the truck!' Then having given the warning he could have jumped out. He chose not to do that. McGinnis' platoon sergeant Cedric Thomas says he saw McGinnis pin down the grenade with his own body. Four men were saved that day. McGinnis did a mighty fine thing. He gave his life to save others."

I am well acquainted with a veteran who served as a gunner on a humvee in Baghdad in 2004-05. Knowing what I know about this citizen/soldier in the Minnesota National Guard, if he had been the first on scene as an officer of the law at the time and place of the school shooting mentioned above, I am confident he would have gone in immediately to do what he could to put an end to the slaying. He's that kind of guy. He's willing to put his life on the line.

Thank God that Jesus is the kind of "guy" who willingly laid down His life - not for His friends! As St. Paul says, "For one will scarcely die for a righteous person, though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die, but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:7, 8).

Yes, even for His enemies, even for ungodly ones like you and me, He gave His life.

May this good news empower us to make a difference in the lives of the young men and women we know, so that they can have the meaning, purpose and security that Christ gives, which offsets the hurts, bitterness and resentments caused by the evil that surrounds us. Amen.