When I was growing up in the Midwest, in the 1950s and 60s, even those active and attending our local churches knew little of Lent – most about Easter. And for young children then (perhaps even now) Easter was all about new clothes, hunting for Easter baskets, and ham on the dinner table on Easter Sunday, and chocolate…chocolate…chocolate!
The church was filled with lilies and other fragrant flowers, but we paid little attention to the heart of the Easter/Christian message: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel was and still is, that God has acted in history to give hope and a promise of everlasting life, and to reconcile sinners to himself through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
As an adult, I’ve come to appreciate that this season (those 40 Days) we call “Lent,” is about living out of our union with, and identity in, Christ. Lent is first and foremost about the gospel making its way deeper into our lives.
On the Christian calendar, Lent (from Latin, meaning “fortieth”) is the forty days beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday. Sundays themselves are not counted in these forty days, as they are generally set aside as days of renewal and celebration (“mini-Easters” of sorts). The number forty carries great biblical significance based on: the forty days of rain Noah and his family endured in the flood, the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness, the forty days Jesus spent on the earth after his resurrection, and so much more. Forty days has been used by God to represent a period of trial, testing, and preparation.
Likewise, the forty days of Lent constitute a season of preparation and repentance during which we anticipate the death (Good Friday) and resurrection (Easter Sunday) of Jesus. It is this very preparation and repentance—aimed at grasping the intense significance of the crucifixion—that gives us a deep and powerful longing for the resurrection, the joy of Easter.
These days I like to think of Lent as a journey to the cross: meditating on our sin and weakness, looking to Jesus as our perfect example and substitute, and being heightened in our worship of God’s great love in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He was separated from God so that we could experience union with God. His life was offered by God so that we could be adopted by God. He was raised with God so that we too might be raised with God. The drama of how this unfolded is the story of Lent.
The journey of Lent is to immerse ourselves in this grand story so that it might increase our appreciation of Easter and love for Jesus.
Join us at Covenant: on Wednesdays each week at 5:45 P.M. beginning Feb. 26 – an Ash Wednesday service in the sanctuary with supper to follow; in Bible study class at 9:30 A.M. every Sunday morning in Room 8; for Monday School bible study in the Covenant House each week from 6:30 – 7:30 P.M.; for the Lenten Workshop after worship on March 15; and certainly in worship each week at 10:30 A.M. as we enjoy scripture and inspiring music.
May God bless you as you journey together this Lenten season.