Mark 1:15 "Turn away from sin and believe the good news."
As Christians, we celebrate Jesus' resurrection each Sunday. This weekly observation punctuates our year and teaches us to practice the meaning of the Resurrection as a part of our rhythm of life.
The season of Lent in the Christian church moves the resurrection from the realm of routine into the foreground of our lives, encouraging us to pay special attention to the meaning of this singular event that changed history and the essence of religious practice. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, an echo of the Old Testament tradition of sackcloth and ashes as a symbol of turning away from sin and towards God, the Lenten season offers an invitation to us: wherever you may have strayed off to--come back to God. Focus on the life of your soul, pay attention to the path you are walking in this life, disentangle yourself from any sin you may have stepped into, and keep your eyes on Jesus as you journey through your days.
Some Christian traditions have developed around self-denial during Lent. It is important to remember that giving up something for Lent is not about denying oneself for the sake of denying oneself. Rather, it is learning the difference between what is necessary and what is superfluous to the self, and practicing the capacity to deny oneself the superfluous things the self craves in order to gain freedom from the self and grow in our spirit. As we practice being less dependent on the distractions of the world we live in, we are free to pay more attention to another kind of life--the life of the spirit.
Lent also roots us deeply in our history. In a world and society that often lacks rootedness, Christians stand deeply rooted in a firm and nourishing soil, part of a historical and contemporary community that belies the isolation of our modern world. Observing Lent is participation with others in a journey towards new life that takes place in shared time and space.
Ash Wednesday reminds us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. It invites us to return to God, no matter where we find ourselves, and to experience ourselves as spiritual creatures loved so much by the One who created us that he came and dwelt among us. It brings us face to face with death--ours and Jesus'--and promises we will belong to God forever.
Reflect: Am I planning to observe Lent in any way? Will I attend an Ash Wednesday church service? Will I give something up for Lent--or commit to doing something I don't normally do--as a way of participating in this tradition and practicing living into the new life my faith offers? What are my reasons for doing so?