Lent: What is it and why celebrate it?

In our secular culture, we may be much more familiar with the season of time when Tim Horton’s offers the ‘Roll up the Rim’ campaign.  I never seem to win – but that’s besides the point.  ‘Role up the Rim’ often runs beside the season of Lent – depending on how the calendar falls each year.  I think Tim Horton’s historically decided they didn’t want us to fast coffee!

On March 6th, we will step into a season on the church calendar referred to as ‘Lent.’  Lent is a 40-day period of time that is observed by hundreds of millions of Jesus following people around the world.  It’s a time we set aside to deliberately consider our own mortality and practice the discipline of confession and repentance as we turn toward God.

For many Christians, they will have ‘ashes’ applied to their forehead in the form of a cross.  This is a symbol and reminder that each of us will eventually return to dust.  Ash Wednesday kicks of the season of Lent with a sober reminder that our time in this world is limited and that our bodies are mortal.  This is a healthy consideration in a culture that doesn’t want to face our own mortality.

This 40-day period of time leading up to Easter is a season for us to intentionally open our hearts to God so that when we observe Good Friday and celebrate resurrection Sunday we will have appropriately prepared hearts.  Jesus shows us the way when he is led by the Spirit for 40 days where he deprives himself in order to seek his Father’s heart and will regarding his mission.

Lent is a time of preparation and deprivation.  It’s good for us to practice the discipline of fasting. Fasting may not be popular, but it is a powerful pathway toward growth in the spiritual life.  During Lent, we surrender those things that are getting in the way of us loving, knowing and following Jesus closely.  The subtle creep of disobedience and sinful practice can corrupt our hearts and minds.  Lent helps us take inventory where we ask the Spirit to search our hearts, confess where we’ve strayed and turn for home.

Here are a couple of passages that are appropriate to take with you during the Lent season:

 Philippians 3:10-11 - "I want to know Christ, yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participate in his sufferings, becoming like him in death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.”

 Joel 2:12-14 - "Even now," declares the Lord, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate.”

As a church-community, we are going to work through a reading plan together by N.T Wright called; “Lent for Everyone.”  You can access it at www.youversion.com and use the search bar to find “Lent for Everyone.” We’re starting on Ash Wednesday–March 6th and will finish together on Easter Sunday.

 I rarely win at ‘Role up the Rim’; but everyone who observes Lent and turns from sin to God wins in a significant way.  I’m not sure I’m ready to give up coffee quite yet – but surrendering something to make more space for Jesus is what’s necessary for me again. I hope you’ll join me?