This week is Ash Wednesday.
The first day of the season of Lent, leading up to Easter.
Growing up, that didn’t mean much to me. We didn’t pay much attention to the church calendar.
That was for Catholics. Or Lutherans. Or some others like that.
As I have grown older however, the importance of Lent in regards to Easter has grown as well–both personally, and in my understanding of it for the growth and maturity of the Church.
Maybe you don’t share that belief or understanding. That’s okay.
But I’m going to lay out why I think Lent is important, and why we should consider observing it.
Lent is about remembering our Lord’s sacrifice for us, confessing how little we appreciate and value it, thanking Him for it, and focusing on it, to prepare ourselves for the highest day of celebration in the church calendar–Resurrection Day, or Easter.
How do we do it?
We read and contemplate lenten readings.
And we may fast.
Sometimes I hear objections to Lent as being “too legalistic” or “too Catholic”.
It isn’t meant to be legalistic. The giving up of something during the forty days of Lent (not including Sundays, which are “feast days”–a Sabbath from your fast, if you will) has to do more with reminding us of Christ’s sacrifice for us. Each time that I forgo that cookie (or tv show, or checking Facebook, or whatever), I am reminded that my life does not consist of these things, but is hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). I’m dying to my flesh, just a little bit, in order to live to the Spirit.
It’s also a reminder of who my savior is. What do I go to, when I am lonely/depressed/anxious/angry/worn out/impatient? Do I go to my pseudo-savior (food, internet, exercise, work, sex, activity)? Or do I go to the One who truly saves, who understands, who can meet my needs fully, and in whom I can trust and rest?
As for it being “too Catholic”, I would say, yes–it is catholic. But with a little “c”. Catholic as in universal, the holy catholic church as the Apostles’ Creed puts it–the whole church, the whole world, the unity of believers, all over the globe; treading the same road of remembering the cross, and longing and anticipating his joyful resurrection day celebration.
So, consider Lent. Think about what God might desire for you to give up (and not in a “this makes me feel good about myself because look at what I’m giving up and sacrificing”, a way to feel superior to those who aren’t fasting from anything, or merely a box to check off on your to-do list for the day).
Or perhaps, God is calling you to add something. A time of prayer before you start your day. Memorizing and meditating on a verse of Scripture. Giving more of your money to someone who needs it more than you. Inviting someone who can’t reciprocate to come over to your house and share a meal with you.
The purpose is to retrain our focus on Jesus. When I refrain from grabbing an M&M, it’s an opportunity to remember that my life is more than meat and drink (or chocolate!); my life is in Christ, and I say a prayer to God, thanking him for that fact, and that he sacrificed much more for me. When I give up soda, and drink water instead, I thank God that He is the living water, and I will never thirst because He satisfies me. When I give more of my money away, I remember that Jesus cares for me, much more than the sparrows (for whom he also provides); I can trust him to take care of me and provide for my needs.
Consider your Savior.
Think about what good thing you may wish to give up for a short time, in pursuit of the ultimate One.
(note: this is a re-post of mine from a previous blog)