Why we need Lent

Many Evangelical Christians did not grow up observing the season of Lent. Lent was the time of year when their Catholic friends ate fish on Fridays. And many still see Lent as an unnecessary ritual, or a ritual that belongs to someone else but not to them.

I thought about calling this post “Lent: It’s not just for Catholics anymore!” But in actuality, it never was just for Catholics. Lent has been observed by the church since the 600s, and some elements date back perhaps as early as the 300s. And today, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Episcopalians and Anglicans all observe Lent, and more Evangelical and non-denominational Christian churches are taking a second look at this ancient practice as well.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday (March 5, 2014) and continues for the 40 days that lead up to Easter, not including Sundays which are always celebrations of the Resurrection.

“Ok,” you say. “So, Lent has been around for a long time and many Protestant denominations observe it. But why do we need it?”

Lent is about going deeper in our relationship with God. Traditionally, Lent is a time for fasting, reflection, and repentance. Fasting is one of the ways we can observe lent. But regardless of what spiritual practices we do during Lent, our purpose should be to go deeper with God.

Look below at this tree. Its roots are deep and wide and strong. I don’t know about this particular species (for all you biologists) but it’s true with at least some – If this tree hadn’t gone through periods of scarcity, its roots wouldn’t have needed to be so deep. But it depends on water to survive and in difficult conditions it grew deep roots so it could thrive. It can weather life’s storms because it has deep roots.

In my experience, fasting affects our relationship with God in the same way. When we fast, as Christians, we are acknowledging that we need God to survive and thrive even more than we need food. And we allow that scarcity to draw us closer to God on whom we depend.

Lent is about realizing our total dependence on God. It’s about remembering that we are fragile, mortal, human, and sinful by nature with no real possibility of getting it right all the time. It’s about remembering that without Christ, we would have no hope beyond the grave. That without Christ, “we are dust, and to dust we shall return,” and that would be the end of the story.

Lent is about not taking Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross for granted. It’s about allowing ourselves to experience the grief and gratitude of that sacrifice. It’s about allowing those feelings of grief and gratitude to produce humility and repentance in us.

Lent is about preparing ourselves to encounter the risen Lord anew on Easter. These practices change us. They deepen our relationship with God. They produce humility and repentance and gratitude and love within us. And when Easter comes, we will have a renewed heart of love for God and gratitude for what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross.

Traditionally, Lent is a season of fasting, of giving something up. Like the illustration of the tree, his helps us to grow deep roots in God, to depend on him more fully. When we fast, we forgo something that we’re accustomed to having – like meat, sweets, coffee, soda, television, or facebook – and we allow its absence and our desire for it to draw our thoughts and prayers to God and our dependence on him alone.

Another way of observing Lent is to ADD a spiritual practice. Fasting isn’t the only spiritual practice that you can take on for Lent, though it’s the most traditional one. I’d encourage you to add any spiritual practice that will help you go deeper in your relationship with God and to depend more wholly on him.

Stay tuned for another blog post in the upcoming days about suggested Lenten spiritual practices!

In Christ’s love,
Pastor Corinne

–I’d love to hear your comments below! What has your experience of Lent been like? What practices have been meaningful for you in past years? How do you plan to observe Lent this year?–

Share This Post

3 Comments to “Why we need Lent”

  1. Lisette Reeve Says:

    In recent years I have fasted by giving up sweets, candy, desserts like cookies, pie, cake, and ice cream. I copied a church friend in doing this, and learned I was addicted to sweets and was able afterwards to reduce my intake to twice a week. Recently, I have returned to eating dessert daily again, so I hope to fast with no sweets again this year and return to a more restricted intake again afterwards.

    I’d be interested in having a Lenten study booklet if the church offers one.

    Thank you,
    Lisette Reeve

  2. Mike Perez Says:

    Okay, you asked for an opinion.
    I really do like having any occasion to remember Christ Jesus’ temptation, suffering and death for us sinners. Is there any reference to Ash Wednesday in the bible? I was raised Catholic and was required to participate in the Ash Wednesday services without any idea what it meant. Many will view this question as scandalous, but it should be answered biblically. Christ Jesus was tempted and suffered for forty days, so that we did not have to.
    He paid the cost or our sin with His perfect life.
    I find that most people give things up, just to give things up, and lose the suffering of Jesus. They can’t wait for the forty days to be over, to go back into the thing they abstained from.
    Several years ago I was asked the most basic question regarding Ash Wednesday.
    “What is the purpose of giving something up for forty days, to go back into it after the forty days are over.”
    I couldn’t answer that.
    I think these questions need to be answered so that Ash Wednesday and Lent don’t become a ritual where it makes us feel good, but leads us no closer to Christ.
    I remember as a child seeing the punks of the neighborhood with crosses of ash on their foreheads, only to return to their delinquency soon after.
    Thank you.

  3. Jenna tennyson Says:

    I have never participated in Lent. It was always a “Catholic thing”. I look forward to experiencing it this year.

Post a Comment