Today marks the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Lent is a season of introspection in which Christians reflect on who we are, and who we are called to be. It parallels the 40 days we are told Jesus spent in the wilderness. Some people fast during this time, some give up a luxury, some take on a new discipline, whether spiritual or physical.
Lent is my favorite season of the Christian year. I know some of my skeptic friends might think, “Of course, this is your favorite season. You beat the shit our of your parishioners for 40 days, get them all worked up, so by the time that good news of Easter comes around, they’ll by mighty loose with their wallets and checkbooks.” While I know I won’t necessarily change anyone’s mind with this post, perhaps an added word of explanation might explain why we do some of the things we do.
Most every week in our church, we say a prayer of confession. It’s a time to acknowledge that we are not perfect, and to be reminded that God forgives us. The part where we are reminded of God’s forgiveness is called the Assurance of Pardon. Unless we don’t have a lay person (someone who isn’t a pastor) leading with us, we have the lay person read the Assurance of Pardon. That’s not accidental. We do it that way because I don’t want anyone to think that I have the power to forgive sins. It’s not my power, and I don’t hold they key to God’s forgiveness. When we read the Assurance, it is not us releasing God’s forgiveness, but us reminding people of the forgiveness and grace that already exists.
I raise this because in Lent we lift this point up in less subtle ways. We will worship together tonight. There will be no robes, no stoles, no vestments of any kind. I will not be sitting in a chair two levels above anyone else. I will be sitting next to the people in my church, dressed the same way, facing the same direction.
Because Lent is a journey we are all on together. It is a time for all of us to think about who we could be. Who we are called to be.
I don’t love this season because of the effect it has on “my” people. I love it because it is a deeply personal time for me.
From wilderness to purpose.