Why Observe Lent?
March 1 is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent. Though many protestant denominations do not observe Ash Wednesday or Lent, it has a long and meaningful history in the church as a season of preparation and consecration before Easter. For many it may seem like an empty ritual, best left alone, but it is a practice with a long heritage in the history of the church, with deep spiritual roots.
As early as the Council of Nicea (325AD), Lent was recognized as a 40 day period of fasting leading up to Easter. One tradition suggests that its origins are associated with the earliest practices of Christian baptism. Converts preparing to be baptized would undergo a lengthy period of study and consecration, which could last as long as several years. Since Easter Sunday was the customary day for conducting baptisms in the early church, the final days leading up to that event were especially significant as a time of purification. Eventually, the church as a whole began to observe the season of Lent as an expression of solidarity with those preparing for baptism, and an opportunity for all Christians to recall and renew the commitment of their baptism.
Just as Moses underwent a 40 year period of preparation before God called him to his ministry, and Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert before beginning his ministry, the 40 days of Lent are intended as a season where we recalibrate our lives as believers. It is a time for self-examination and repentance, allowing God to show us the ways in which we have turned away from him and allowed ourselves to be distracted by the pleasures of this world or caught in the web of sin, and turning again toward God in faith and obedience.
Fasting is also observed during Lent, following the example of Jesus, who fasted during his 40 day sojourn in the desert. Fasting is not a good work that earns us special merit with God. Rather, by denying ourselves a common pleasure or self-indulgence, we affirm that our true life does not consist in the abundance of things, but in God himself. He is our true food and drink; he is our true joy and pleasure.
The spiritual attitudes that the season of Lent calls us to ought to be a part of our daily lives throughout the year. Nevertheless, it provides us a special opportunity to recommit ourselves to a life of faithful discipleship. My prayer for all of us is that we will make the most of this season for the glory of God.
Pastor Jon EnrightMarch 9, 2017