Lent starts this week on Ash Wednesday. Lent (literally springtime) was popularized in the fourth century and had a different and more practical purpose than we might think seventeen centuries later. If we were to poll people this week as to the purpose of Lent, we would likely hear something about what we should give up during the 6+ weeks leading up to Easter. We might likely have a similar view. If so, we find ourselves entering into this springtime with a negative perspective. I live in Minnesota. With another 8-9″ of snow predicted for this weekend, I am not hearing many people dread the coming of spring. Who would want to approach spring sullenly? What about Lent?
The editors of Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter suggest that “Lent should never be morose – an annual ordeal during which we begrudgingly forgo a handful of pleasures. Instead, we ought to approach Lent as an opportunity, not a requirement.” After all, the main purpose of fasting (the forging of a pleasure) is to provide more opportunity to discover and enjoy God. There is an old liturgy that refers to the Lent and Easter season as “this joyful season.” How might we approach Lent this year in a manner that brings joy? I will toss out a few suggestions, trusting readers to weigh in with other suggestions…
- Read one of the Gospels. This is always my go-to. You plan your reading so that you finish at Easter, providing you with the backstory leading up to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- Read Walter Wangerin’s classic Reliving the Passion (based on the Gospel of Mark). It has been transformative for me over the years. (It’s available for Kindle… or Amazon can get it to you in a couple days.)
- Read Bread and Wine.
- Find a weekly Lenten service with the express purpose of discovering and enjoying God in new ways.
- Since we are talking about the hope of springtime, N.T. Wright’s book Surprised by Hope would be a good read (though it might take you past Easter to finish).
Whatever you choose to do during this season, God will meet you, further revealing himself to you (I speak from experience!). Blessings!