A funny thing happened to me on the way to Easter several years ago . . .
For some reason I found myself thinking about Lent, the forty day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter, as designated on the church calendar. Having grown up Baptist, I knew absolutely zero about this practice except from a childhood friend who was Lutheran, and the film “Chocolat.” Pam, my childhood friend, always gave up bubble gum for Lent, which didn’t seem all that difficult since she had braces for years and couldn’t chew gum anyway. All I could remember from “Chocolat” was the focus on the sheer misery of the Lenten fast. Still, I felt a pressing need to prepare my heart in some way for Holy Week and Easter, or at least focus on the crucifixion and resurrection for more than two days.
I knew no one who observed Lent (to my knowledge) and no one to explain it to me. I began to research and found information and devotional material on the internet and at a secular bookstore. But my efforts, as clumsy as they were, paid off and hooked me for life! The first thing I noticed in my readings during Holy Week was the heavy emphasis on the suffering of Christ (think “The Passion”.) It dawned on me that I had never stopped there and truly mourned Christ’s death and suffering.
Like most believers I knew, I rushed past the cross to get to the empty tomb.
Yes, we celebrate the living Christ, but can we fully grasp the miracle of His resurrection without mourning His death?
Eventually I reconnected with a friend from a liturgical background who proved to be a valuable resource for all things Lent. Her encouragement then and even today has pushed me to pursue and eagerly anticipate this forty day period. And I wish to do the same for you, dear Flourish reader.
Some say “Lent is not in the Bible.” That is true, but neither is the word “Trinity”. Lent is a word, a term describing a period of prayer, fasting and repentance and that is most definitely in the Bible! The Lenten journey is also characterized by sacrificial giving and serving. If your purpose in Lent is to draw closer to Jesus and recognize His sacrifice in a fresh way, then you are spot on. If you are just trying to fast something you enjoy eating or drinking for forty days, not so much.
It’s not too late to join the pilgrimage! Here are a few resources you may want to consider:
- Jesus Keep Me Near the Cross: Experiencing the Passion and Power of Easter by Nancy Guthrie.
- The Final Days of Jesus, by Kostenberger/Taylor.
- Lent for Everyone, by NT Wright or the YouVersion.
- The classic Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen.
- Margaret Feinburg is offering an online Lenten Bible reading challenge.
Engage the Lenten season in a fresh way. Whatever you do, I assure you of this – your Easter will never be the same.
Published March 3, 2014