What is Lent and why should we experience it? Especially for those not of a Catholic or more liturgical background, how can this tradition help us go deeper in our relationship with Jesus and wider in our influence for Him with others?
Lent is a period of 40 days (not including Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Many Christians traditionally fast, pray, repent and/or practice moderation during this time in preparation and recognition of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection. One source explains, “The Bible does not mention the custom of Lent, however, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.” In many respects, this is a journey that is reflective of Jesus’ own path from the places of his popular ministry to the unfolding of His passion on the lonely cross of Calvary.
Perhaps this journey is summarized in the recollection of Luke, one of His closest followers, “As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51, NIV) This wouldn’t be an easy road. Still, Jesus had known His mission from the beginning. He knew His purpose and pursued it with a singular passion. He journeyed with compassion for the fickled crowds and words of instruction and rebuke for both close followers and critics alike along the way. Fixed on the cross He came to a crisis on the Mount of Olives, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42, NIV) It is this journey, this crisis point that Lent leads us in.
What will you give up in order to gain a deeper identity and fellowship with Jesus? How will you join Him in the journey He now entrusts to us as His followers… the daily commission to “carry the cross” in such a way that others are convicted by His sacrifice and catch a glimpse of His enduring love for them? In the end, ours are simple sacrifices… going without coffee or soda, fasting from certain foods or, (dare I say it?), all forms of entertainment media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Netflix, movies, TV, etc). It is helpful to go down this road with others who will pray with you, for you and share in making an accountable sacrifice during this sacred season.
As Jesus “set out for Jerusalem,” may this season of Lent help us focus our lives on a deeper intimacy with Him and a greater commitment in the Great Commission journey He has set out for us.
What are some ways you or others are observing Lent? Share your thoughts with others in the discussion section below!
Sources include: http://www.umcmission.org/Learn-About-Us/News-and-Stories/2011/March/Lent-as-a-Journey and http://christianity.about.com/od/holidaytips/qt/whatislent.htm