Lent originated in the very early days of the Christian Community as a preparatory time for Easter when the faithful rededicate themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. It is believed that by observing the forty days of Lent, individual Christians imitate Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days at the beginning of his ministry. I have come to believe that Lent is a time that is about journeying inward, so we may journey outward to more boldly serve the world.
When thinking of Lent, many folks often think of Lenten sacrifice. What should I give up for Lent? Some people give up chocolate for Lent, others give up Facebook. Lent is seen as a time to break a bad habit or a time to reject something that somehow causes a prick of my own conscience.
Frankly, I am unsure whether God really cares about how much candy I eat, or whether I can’t miss my friends social networking posts. Instead, God does care whether I love others and not just those closest to me. God does care whether I help to feed the hungry or nurture a relationship with my community. God cares whether I spend time with God in prayer and worship. Lent is not just a season about self-denial; Lent is a season about reordering our desires, our patterns of being, and our patterns of living to seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. And it is also a time to explore and deepen our relationship with God, who so desires that we know God. This Lent, I hope to look up from the self-indulgent guilt of worrying about chocolates and “screen time” and instead look out to a world that is crying for my compassion, and towards a God who so desires my attention.
This year during Lent, St. Paul’s will be exploring themes of mortality, death and dying. While some may think of this a dour subject. As a parish priest, I have had the privilege to walk with many individuals and families through times of death and dying, and I have come to believe that when we come to a better understanding or mortality and death, we are freed to live our life with God today. Having these conversations now is also very helpful when it does come time to journey with, and care for, those we love at their times of infirmity or death. As well when our own time comes as well.
I hope you will join us in this exploration during this season of Lent.
The Rev. Noah H. Evans