Welcome to Lent. It’s Ash Wednesday, and today marks the start of a new season that will carry us toward Holy Week and Easter Sunday.
As a child, confirmation student and even seminarian, I disliked Lent. I didn’t understand the actual point, and it definitely seemed too somber a season for my taste. Now I find it to be one of the most meaningful times of the year.
For the next six weeks, I'll take you on a walk through Lent. For starters, I’ll unpack a bit of why I think Lent is worth acknowledging. Then, each Wednesday we will explore a different "church word," such as forgiveness, grace and hope. These are the kinds of terms you hear a lot in religious environments but may not understand in the "what does this mean for my actual daily life?" sense.
There are plenty of church words I don't fully understand, so I'm certain we will be learning side-by-side. My goal with these upcoming Lenten columns is that together we can deepen our understanding of the Creator who is at the center of all our religious terminology.
Back to Lent. You can search the Bible high and low, and you will never find the word Lent mentioned anywhere. It was a few hundred years after Jesus when Lent was first acknowledged as a time set aside for people to prepare for Easter. The 40 days of Lent are a reminder of the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness before being tempted by Satan.
During those 40 days, Jesus was being prepared to heal, lead, teach and preach during the years of his earthly ministry. Lent is a time of preparation for us, too.
Churches and denominations approach Lent in different ways. Some people add elements of fasting and prayer to their routines; other people attend an additional mid-week worship service.
There is no perfect recipe for how to approach Lent. These days are meant to be a time to prepare our hearts and minds for Easter, and that can take different forms. The deeper we allow ourselves to dive into Lent, all the more glorious Easter morning can shine.
Ash Wednesday services are a truly sacred time. I used to think Ash Wednesday was so troubling and sad. Now I know those ashes on our foreheads symbolize so much.
They are a reminder of our mortality as human beings and our need for God. Ashes are a physical symbol of the unavoidable reality of death; they are also an invitation to consider how we want to live our lives.
Lent is a special time to reflect on our lives, who we were and are, and who we want to be.
Even more than that, Lent is a time to pause and consider Jesus. Who was he? Who is he? What role will he play in our ever-changing world and in our ever-changing lives?
I hope you'll walk with me each Wednesday as we think and talk about this meaningful time we call Lent.