Lent is the church season that walks us through the 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter. Beginning today, Ash Wednesday, these 40 days represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted repeatedly by the devil.
The Church calendar for year A, or year 2017, looks like this:
March 1st: Ash Wednesday
March 5th: 1st Sunday of Lent
March 12th: 2nd Sunday of Lent
March 19th: 3rd Sunday of Lent
March 26th: 4th Sunday of Lent
April 2nd: 5th Sunday of Lent
April 9th: Palm Sunday
April 10th: Monday of Holy Week
April 11th: Tuesday of Holy Week
April 12th: Wednesday of Holy Week
April 13th: Maundy Thursday
April 14th: Good Friday
April 15th: Holy Saturday
April 16th: Easter Vigil/Resurrection of our Lord
Who knew you were going to be so busy for the next couple of months! But really, why should we know about an old Church tradition; why should we care?
For some denominations, this church season of Lent is extremely important and their churchgoers fast, abstain, journey to the Holy Land, walk the road of the cross-bearing Jesus, pray intentionally and often, and go to church each day of Holy Week.
For others, the notion of “giving up” something for Lent has dribbled down to giving up items that they already needed to give up—sodas, desserts, fried foods, television/media, etc. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it shifts the purpose of our Lenten fasts from us working on our relationship with God to us working on our relationships with our addictions. If we are able to shift our cravings for food into a longing for God, then Lent can be a time of great spiritual enrichment.
Author Annie Dillard wrote in Teaching a Stone to Talk:
God needs nothing, asks nothing, and demands nothing, like the stars. It is a life with God which demands these things…You do not have to do these things [like give up sugar!]…God does not, I regret to report, give a hoot. You do not have to do these things—unless you want to know God. They work on you, not on him.
You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary. But the stars neither require nor demand it.
Apart from being a meaningful personal experience, also think about the connection that comes from tradition. When we experience spiritual practices that have been in place for hundreds of years, we are connecting ourselves and Haven to that history. In a world and time when we are fiercely trying to connect to the Gospel—2000 years have gone by—what will keep Jesus’ life and death relevant to us today? Spiritual practices help narrow the time gap by giving us insight into the emotion of Jesus’ experiences.
As we move through the Lenten season, short guides will be available for Ash Wednesday, each Sunday, and every day of Holy Week. You can find them in print as bulletin inserts and/or on the church’s website and Facebook page. These guides will highlight the words Repent, Rebirth, Reconcile, Rejoice, Redemption, and Restore. Read through the scripture passages for these words, using them as devotional pieces.
Please feel free to share any of your Lenten experiences!