Over the last few days I've had some short discussions with some of my "lower church" friends about Ash Wednesday and Lent. When I ask them how they are observing the Lenten season I get responses like "every day should be a day we focus on Jesus" and "Lent is just a time for someone to give up chocolate or facebook".
Now, my tradition is not very liturgical, in fact for years I gave up sky diving for lent (I've never been sky diving) as an opportunity to make light of what many find sacred and important. But to be honest I'm turning over a new leaf. Some of the more ancient practices of the church (lent, advent, ash Wednesday and others) are beneficial for my ever growing walk with Jesus.
Here are a few reasons I'm observing Lent this season.
The Church has been observing the Christian Calendar and Holy Days since the first century.
Lent appears to have originated in the apostolic age and has been observed by various Christian groups since then. For me there is something profound about joining with Christians from centuries ago observing 40 days of deep reflection and repentance. It would seem a little weird and perhaps arrogant for me not to seriously consider what Godly men and women have been doing since the first century. Could it be there is some benefit?
It's always a good idea to reflect on our sinfulness and what Jesus did as a result.
I know, this should happen every day and repentance should be a part of our life, but taking an extended season to meditate on our need and God's solution is very beneficial. We non liturgists do this in other ways. We go on retreats or attend conferences to get our spiritual batteries recharged. I'm using this season to intensify my disdain for sin and need for grace.
Lent is not about what you give up but what you gain.
All I hear from people this time of years is, "what are you giving up for Lent"? That's really the wrong question. The question should be, "what are you doing to remind yourself of your desperate need for a saviour"? That's the purpose of any fasting or sacrificing, to place us in a position where we are easily reminded of our need for God over anything else. Yes, I'm changing something for this season, but that shouldn't be the focus. What I change or give up should be a constant reminder of my need for Jesus.
Observing Lent allows me to associate with the worldwide Christian community.
People who love Jesus all over the world are spending special time today repenting of their sins and will spend the next 40 days in greater focus of their need for Jesus. That's kind of cool. The church is much larger than my little American perspective, I need to remember that.
Throughout history God uses calendar and symbols to point us to Jesus.
God has used rocks and passover and lambs and fires and all kinds of symbols and seasons to bring us into greater intimacy with him. More recently he has established water and wine and bread to give us great clarity on who is is and what he has done. It makes sense that people taking a season to reflect on their need for forgiveness would please him.
So, would you consider going into the wilderness with Jesus for the next 40 days? As we observe Ash Wednesday may we say to God, "search our hearts and know us". And "create in us a clean heart oh God".
Consider a greater focus on your relationship with Jesus as we move closer to Easter and celebrate Jesus' victory over sin.