The Gift of Lent

Not many Baptists “do” Lent. We have been called “liturgically challenged” by some—although more of us are beginning to embrace the richness of all the seasons of the Church Year.

“Free church tradition” congregations have historically tended to leave the Season of Lent to the Catholics who want to practice a ritual of self-denial before Easter. The old argument is that “giving up” stuff for Lent is just an outward exercise with no inward or lasting meaning. Besides, Lent is not very “user-friendly.” What church sends out direct mail in hopes of attracting first-time visitors to a worship service in which you are told that you are dirt?

Part of the awkwardness of Lent is that here in America we don’t feel that we have to give up anything to be a Christian. The truth is you don’t have to give up anything to follow Jesus—just everything.

Whether your background is high-church, low-church or no-church, the forty-day season of Lent is the church’s gift for us to reflect upon what needs changing in our lives. It is a time for drawing near to God and deepening your personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is a time to allow God’s Holy Spirit to do some soulful spring cleaning. Lent is the season of preparation before celebrating Easter can truly begin.

Last week I led an Ash Wednesday service in my Baptist congregation on Day One of Lent. It’s still an awkward experience for most of us that didn’t grow up in this kind of liturgical tradition. As I imposed the ashes from last year’s remnants of the palms from Palm Sunday, I said to each person:  “From dust you were made, and to dust you shall return.”

It is truly a humbling and jarring truth to admit that we won’t last forever in these decaying bodies. But Ash Wednesday is the doorway into Lent which leads us through a winding, twisting forty-day journey to the Cross. Lent is the annual rite of passage that should be traveled before we can truly experience the meaning of Cross and Resurrection.

Liturgically challenged? Perhaps. Awkward? Probably. Necessary? Absolutely. The time of preparation is at hand. Jesus won’t ask you to give up just anything for Lent—just everything. Ya’ll come!