Growing up in Hutchinson, Kansas in the sixties, the only people I knew who observed Lent were my Catholic friends.
They talked about what they were giving up for Lent. We were always served fish in the cafeteria on Fridays out of respect for the Catholic students and teachers. But I wasn’t raised with a concept of Lent.
Lent comes from the Middle English word for “spring.” It is the forty days prior to Easter, minus the Sundays. In the ancient church, Lent was a time for converts to be instructed before baptism. It was also a time for all Christians to repent.
In our day and age, Lent has become a time for people, religious or non-religious, to give up something: sugar, television, complaining. It has also become a time for the marketplace to try and sell us things.
Nadia Bolz-Weber, founding pastor of House for All Sinners and Saints and author of the blog, sarcasticlutheran.com writes:
This is not a season of taking up self-denial, it’s a season of relinquishment. We let go of all the pretenses and destructive independence from God. We let go of defending ourselves. We let go of our indulgent self-loathing. Like the prodigal son we then begin to see a loving God running with abandon to welcome us home. But we can’t begin to see this God until we turn from our arrogance and certainty and cynicism and ambivalence.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which this year is February 13. I invite you to observe Lent this year by relinquishing whatever it is that separates you from God. Maybe it is your pursuit of power, status, self-sufficiency, money or prestige. Maybe it is television, sugar, or complaining. Relinquish it not because it is the trendy thing to do but because you want to be able to see God running with abandon to welcome you home.