Rookies: Our first year celebrating Lent

Growing up I always thought Lent was a Catholic tradition, one that was full of empty rituals. A kid can have pretty misconstrued ideas of other denomination’s practices, and I was no exception. Since then I’ve become quite fascinated with early church traditions and the purposes for which they were established. So when Daniel suggested we celebrate Lent I was thrilled! I’m all for building anticipation over time in preparation for Easter.
In my understanding of things, Lent is to Easter as Advent is to Christmas. A series of readings and meditations are reflected on each day in order to foster a richer, more glorious view of the celebration, namely of Christ.
According to the liturgical calendar, Lent is a 40 day period, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Eve. The 40 days references Christ’s temptations in the wilderness {as well as Noah and the ark and Israel in the wilderness}. Excluding Sundays, which are set aside for the full enjoyment of Christ and His good gifts, you typically give something up or add something that will specifically aid you in focusing on and longing for Christ. Daniel and I chose to give up TV and movies and add in more focused prayer time together, for example. I’m wavering on whether or not I’m going to add in a Facebook sabbatical or not. [sigh] We’ll see. It would be a pretty effective means of reminding me of how I should long for Christ every time I want to join in the pseudo community of online social networking.
Anyway, the point is when you give up something that you crave on a regular basis, that craving has to be satisfied in some form or another, the goal being that Christ would be your satisfaction.
Other means of pursuing Christ are practiced, daily readings {often provided by the church}, hymns, simple meals, and Sunday feasts. Fridays we hope to share a simple meal of rice and beans or something similar as a way of reminding ourselves that Christ is our richness and to grow our awareness of the universal plight of humanity: poverty, whether possessional or spiritual or both.
Physical reminders such as the traditional empty cross with interchanging purple, red, black, and white robes are set up in the home. Decor is supposed to be kept simple throughout the 40 day period, using items such as purple and white candles during the season leading up to the climax of Easter.
Our pastor shared a diagram during his sermon on Sunday that I believe accurately and precisely sums up the purpose and goal of Lent.
If there ever was a diagram depicting the struggle of my heart, this would be it. Basically what it’s saying is that our awareness of the power of the cross often does not grow with our ever increasing awareness of God’s holiness and our own flesh and sinfulness. The danger of that being we often end up trying to fill in the gaps with religious performance or pretending we’re not as bad as we really are. As a caution, Lent could be used to this end. Properly practiced however, I believe Lent can actually become the solution to this problem rather than the fuel for the deception.
Compensating for my puny view of the cross with performance or pretending is merely a band-aid remedy, one that won’t stick. What I need is an increasing awareness of the power of the gospel that results in me recognizing I’ve been forgiven and reconciled to God through Christ.
For what other reason does Lent exist than to increase our understanding of the cross?
I’m so grateful for this season of meditation we’re about to enjoy. I was pretty excited about eating decadent desserts today in honor of Fat Tuesday as well, but alas, we fell ill and I got a jump on eating simple meals instead. Ill be sure to pile it on extra heavy for Sunday feasts to make up for that! Mark my words!
We’re to new to this. Any of you guys have suggestions for the rookies? What are some of your favorite ways to observe Lent?
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