Lent is a season that belongs to the Christian calendar. So it belongs with Advent, Epiphany, Pentecost, and Ordinary Time. I’ve never seriously practiced Lent. One time I gave up Facebook, but my students saw that I was still using Twitter (apparently my efforts did not count).
I live in Pittsburgh where lots of people observe this season. It’s not uncommon to see teenagers or adults with ash-ladden foreheads from an early morning Ash Wednesday worship service. Essentially everybody is doing it. So how ought we think about this season?
Lent is not commanded by God. It’s a discipleship tool created by our ancient brothers and sisters to guide us in embracing the biblical rhythms of self-denial, putting sin to death, and seeing Jesus’ victory spill out into our everyday lives. This is exactly what the Christian life ought to look like. It can be a very good season to observe as a church-family as you intentionally share a common experience for 40 days.
So before you think about observing Lent, be sure of one thing: your identity has already been secured by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The believer is and always will be God’s beloved child because he is united to Christ, not because he observes the church calendar, exercises self-denial, or does penance for his sins. However, Lent can be a great season–a sort of spiritual boot camp–where the challenges of defeating temptation show you your need to depend on the Spirit’s work in your everyday life.
Over the coming 6 weeks, I hope to write a weekly meditation on the themes of picking up your cross and following Jesus, the mortification of sin, union with Christ, loving as Jesus did, and understanding the ramifications of his victory in your life today.
To get us started, I would love to hear more about your own experiences with the spiritual exercises and Lent.
What’s your take on them?