For those Christians who observe the Liturgical calendar, we are now in the season of Lent, the 40-day period which precedes Easter. The spirit of Lent is one of reflection and self-sacrifice, and you might be familiar with the concept of “giving up something for Lent.” The 40 days are symbolic of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying.
I grew up in the United Methodist Church and, as I remember, we took a middle-of-the- road approach to Lent. We did not go to church on Ash Wednesday and have ashes rubbed on our foreheads. I don’t remember being encouraged in Sunday School to think of something we could give up for Lent.
We did, however, observe the season. I remember several years where a Lenton Devotional Booklet was prepared with daily devotionals written by church members. The whole point, as I understood it, was to take those 40 days leading up to Easter, consider the sacrifice Jesus made when he fasted and prayed, and on the cross, and make that part of our spiritual journey. On Easter Sunday, of course, we celebrated the resurrection and the end of the 40 days.
Whether one ended up giving up something for Lent was a personal decision and I seem to remember a couple of years I did it. Maybe I gave up a certain food. When I craved that food, I was supposed to have thought of Christ and his sacrifice.
My best friend and two-year roommate from college grew up in a non-Liturgical church and as I remember he wasn’t very familiar with Lent at the time. I was able to educate him a bit. One of our other close friends, who was Catholic, always vowed to give up cussing for the season, but with little success. With that, my non-Liturgical friend was not impressed (his reasoning being that, maybe crass language would be a good thing to omit from one’s life on a permanent basis and not save it up until Lent was over).
Ironically, today the formerly non-Liturgical roommate is now part of the Methodist Church and he sends me, via e-mail, Lenten devotionals written by his pastor. He prefaced the first one, from a couple of years ago, with, “You remember Lent, don’t you?”
Indeed I do.
Even though I am now part of a non-denominational church that does not observe the Liturgical calendar (although we “borrow” from it on occasion), I well remember the sacredness of this season of the year and I try to do my own share of inward thinking during the time.
Near my office in Memphis, where I work part of each week, there is a beautiful old Episcopal church where, during Lent, weekday services are held at noon. I try to make it over there a few times and always leave refreshed and renewed, with something good to think about in the midst of a work day.
So, although I agree that my foul-mouthed buddy in college was somewhat missing the point when he tried to clean up his language during the Lenten season, I think the observation of Lent, whether one is “high church,” “low church,” or somewhere in between, is a rich and important tradition of Christianity.
My prayer for you, if you are reading this, is that you will find yourself closer to Him this season as you make your own journey toward the resurrection. I know some of you in the northern climes are extremely tired of snow and cold weather. All I can say is: Lent will soon be over and Easter is coming.