What’s Lent Got to Do With It?

Let me preface this by saying, I did not grow up in a liturgical church and I do not regularly attend one now. My thoughts on Lent are still forming and I don’t feel in any way qualified to offer any kind of meaningful meditation on this 40-day season that prepares us for the celebration of Easter.

Growing up, I always thought Lent was a “Catholic” thing, as in, it’s only for Catholics. I actually made a point to let people know that I was NOT observing it–after all, wasn’t the whole thing a forced attempt to appear more spiritual, motivated by legalistic fears? Looking back, I realize I was actually kind of a jerk about all this–I have a distinct memory of waving french fries in the faces of friends who had given them up at my 8th grade lunch table (sorry Liz and Christine!)–though at the time I just thought I was being funny. (Tweens are the worst.)
But liturgy is kind of a big deal at Wheaton, so after a year or two of warming up to the idea and getting over this idea that “it’s not essential to salvation so I don’t have to do it, and therefore I won’t,” I realized that maybe just because I don’t have to doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be a good thing, perhaps even a season built into the year by God for our benefit, and a few years I even tried giving up something.
So rather than spend thousands of words trying to parse out why, or how, I have come to see the benefits of Lenten observance, or regale you with stories of my own failed attempts, I just want to point you to a few things I have heard or read in the past few days that might just encourage you, too!
Songs for Lent,” New York Hymns
This album is free so, um, why would you NOT download it?!? A group of New York-based singer/songwriters created these songs for Lent built on the stations of the cross. I listened to it this morning and want to try to listen to it at the start of each morning for these next 40 days. Music is such a good way to engage an idea–it becomes part of us and infiltrates the rhythms of our life–and, added bonus, it makes our days more beautiful!
This is the sermon preached at the (really wonderful) service I attended last night (at Church of the Resurrection, since my church didn’t have anything going on). So often we think about Lent in terms of introducing new disciplines into our lives, without addressing the areas in which we have already been called to discipline.
A revolutionary idea! He says, “To me, participating in a Lenten discipline is my chance to do a little play acting. What would it be like to live as if the law were in fact sufficient? How about for 40 days I pretend that I really can improve myself in the sight of God? Let’s see how that works for me.” This article is a reminder to my 8th-grade self that Lent draws us into a deeper appreciation that Jesus is the one who fulfilled the law and conquered death, for us. He concludes:

So for me Easter doesn’t become a day when I thank God that he has made me more disciplined, not like those non-liturgical folks who don’t even observe Lent. Instead, it becomes an occasion to celebrate the fact that my self-respect does not hinge on my self-discipline, and that my very lack of discipline is the paradoxical sign of the gospel. Indeed, while we were gluttons and prayerless, while we didn’t give a rip about the poor, Christ died for us. It’s not for the spiritually fit and healthy that he came, but for the unfit and unhealthy. We may be faithless in areas small and large, but he remains faithful through and through.

Amen!

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