I grew up Mennonite Brethren, attended a church made up of mainly Mennonite Brethren people, who did mainly Mennonite Brethren things. What this meant is that we did things much like any Baptist or Alliance or EV Free person might do, the only difference being that we ate farmer sausage while doing it.
Although there were certain traditions that were a part of my upbringing one that wasn’t was Lent observation. I didn’t run with people who observed Lent and if I bumped into anyone who did it was usually a dyed in the wool pagan trying to break a bad habit who was using Lent to help kick start the process.
So why Lent and why now?
I’ve wrestled with this question too. Here’s my answer: my main motivation is birthed out of what I see, not everywhere but commonly, as a lack of preparation and thoughtfulness connected to the Easter season.
Lent helps battle that tendency. Lent doesn’t just remind us of the cross, it prepares us for it.
Lent invites people to join Jesus on the way to the crucifixion – with fasts, one or many, assisting in that process. Obviously, the joy of Good Friday comes because the tomb was empty Sunday; however, there is something telling that in the sacrament of communion we are called to remember Jesus’ death specifically.
Lent does that. Not only that, but definitely nothing less than that.
Lent doesn’t end at the cross. In fact, the Easter Week following Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection and the coming of the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit. Lent helps us not forget Thursday night, Friday morning, and the silence of Saturday. Lent reminds us of our call to pick up our cross daily with a willingness to follow Jesus to the place of the skull and join Him there. That’s one of the reasons why I like the active participation of communion that we take part in every Sunday at Westside. Having people stand and come forward serves as a visual reminder that we too are called to follow Jesus to the cross.
Why fast as part of the Lent season? It’s a call of surrender.
It’s a call to seek God’s face and ask, “what is that thing, that practice, that gift, that divides my loyalty and keeps me from experiencing the cross-centred and cross-focused life as I should?”
Speaking of ‘call to surrender’ Jean-Pierre de Caussade writes, “If it happens that God’s will sets a limit to the exercise of some particular faculty of ours, he sets no limit on our wills. The good pleasure of God, God’s being and essence are the object of the will, and through the exercise of love it is united with God without limit, manner or measure.”
So that’s why Lent and why now, at least in part.
My deepest prayer is that this Lent Season serves as a deeply joyous and revealing time that stretches and pulls us individually and corporately, touching possible dead areas needing the life and joy only the cross of Jesus can bring. I pray that we get more of Jesus over these next 46 days and thereafter.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5:7