At Grace & Peace we have said that we are going to be people who appreciate and connect with the larger church even if we don’t total agree with everything.
One of those places of connection that many will notice is that some of our members participate in Lenten celebrations. In recent years as more Christians desire to connect with the history of our faith, Lent has risen in popularity. I recently heard a pastor say, “Lent is like Lady Gaga, is just big right now…everyone is doing Lent!”
So what is Lent?
Lent is a season of preparation leading up to Easter. It is traditionally focused on repentance. While a repentant spirit should mark all we do year round, it is appropriate that certain times be set aside for a particular focus on repentance. The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts almost seven weeks until Easter Sunday. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week, which includes Maundy Thursday (commemorating the institution of the Lord’s Supper) and Good Friday (commemorating the crucifixion). Reminiscent of Jesus’ fasting for forty days in the wilderness in preparation for his ministry, the Lenten season, not counting Sundays, lasts forty days.
Traditionally, people fast during this season, but some people take up this tradition while missing the idea behind it. In the Christian faith, we always have to start from the perspective that nothing we do earns us a place in God’s presence, rather Christ sought us out and worked for us when we could not work for ourselves. This has to affect the way we see Lent, and fasting in general. Fasting is not meant to be a way of proving our love to God.
Here are a few suggestions for how to use your time over the next 40 days:
Don’t treat Lent like a new year’s resolution. Sometimes we make bold changes and hope, by sheer force of will, to stick to our guns. Sometimes if we don’t make it, we kick ourselves and feel as if somehow we have failed ourselves. With Lent that can be expanded to thinking we failed God. The truth is, we fail God all the time and he loves us regardless of how well we do at Lent.
Whether you are fasting or not, why not use this time of year to ask questions about your spiritual health. As Ray Cannata, Pastor of Redeemer New Orleans put it, ”With all this self-examination, however, it is crucial to keep your focus the gospel (GOOD news!): All of us are more sinful and helpless than we would’ve ever dared admit, yet in Christ we are more accepted and forgiven than we would’ve ever dared hope. May God grant you a truly holy Lent! ”
Don’t forget to feast! No church tradition which practices Lent, ignores the fact that every Lord’s Day is meant to be a celebration. Every Sunday is a chance to gather and celebrate what God has done, what he is doing and what he will one do. Lent is not meant to be an Emo kid’s favorite time of year. Remember if you are in Christ, everything has been paid for. It is finished!