Lent in 2009

Lent will start on Wednesday, the 25th of February in 2009, and will continue for 46 days until Saturday, the 11th of April. So what is the significance of that for many of us?

Lent is the traditional fasting time that extends from Ash Wednesday through Easter. It is to represent the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and being tempted, some believe. For most Christian traditions (those which incorporate it into their Church calender) it means that people give up something as a form of fasting and self denial. Ash Wednesday is a day to reflect on one’s mortality, and the whole mood of the season is the coin side to Christmas.

Why should we think this is significant?

Unless your Church considers it so, I am not sure that it has a powerful significance for us today, although I do think some of the exercises are useful. Giving up something, for instance. I benefited when, early in my Christian walk, I gave up smoking cigarettes for Lent. It helped me quit the habit, and I haven’t had a cigarette since! That was a great health decision which, at the time, I had no idea how much it would benefit me.

Fasting has a place of importance, certainly.

Fasting has the effect of exposing how tied we are to our desires, and how much the lust of the flesh is able to rule in your life. Taking a brief period to realize this fact has certain advantages. I don’t think it makes us “holier”, and we have to watch the human tendency to attach spiritual value to our ability to sacrifice such things. It might be good to keep in mind the remonstrances: “For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings” Hosea 6:6
and “To obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15:22)

But if you keep that in mind, I think it can be an advantage to use the time of Lent to help us to center on walking the “way of the cross” and learning a little more of what it means to deny “self”.

Our modern culture doesn’t know a great deal about denying self. It almost seems like something that is wrong, or at least unhealthy, in our climate of self affirming and authenticating. But think about this for a moment: Isn’t the inflation of self the very thing that gives rise to greed and selfishness? Isn’t that at the root of most social problems, especially those we most want to eradicate? When viewed from that perspective, simplifying, greening, being more compassionate…all very modern values that we recognize as significant for healthy change are really only small expressions of that same concept found in Christian self denial, in following Jesus as He took up His cross.

I think we may follow the spirit of the traditional Lent and gain a great deal spiritually, in the sense of the paradoxical truth:
Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. Luke 17:33

5 thoughts on “Lent in 2009”

  1. I once gave up junk food in my truck for Lent and it was the worst distraction to spiritual growth I ever had. When you work all the time and don’t come up for air it’s hard to figure out how to punish yourself any further.

    Lent for me is more about finding a marker in your life that can remind you of God more often than you are otherwise accustomed. Self-denial is okay, but it can turn into a pity party if you’re not careful.

    I tend to be a media nut, so this year rationing my radio, TV &/or keyboard time would be a good Lenten discipline.

    Have you every thought about the linguistic root connecting discipline and disciple?

  2. On occasion I have, and it seems like this type of ‘marker’ seems to help my mind focus on that type of discipline. Sometimes doing something simple and physical trains my mind to think more clearly about whether I am disciplining my character or not (it can get loose and go wild at times!).

    You are so right about the inclination to “pity party”. It’s all for naught once you go down that road.

    Had to laugh at the thought of you rueing the day you gave up your junk food for Lent :)but that brings up a good point about physical fasting: don’t combine a fast and physically taxing work. Ideally it should coincide with time that you can pray and meditate.

  3. Yay Ilona!

    Thanks for the reminder for Lent. This post and the passage from Luke are pretty Buddhist (lol I’ve had a bit of Buddhism on my mind recently).

    S

  4. Maybe your focus explains the confusion- since Luke wrote one of the four gospel accounts and thus is at the foundation of Christianity.

    It brings me to a thought I’ve held for a long time, and that is that there are parts of wisdom to be found in many religions. But is a portion of wisdom enough? And what sets Christianity apart? It isn’t that Jesus was a teacher… there are many of those. It isn’t that Jesus was a great man… there are some of those. It is that Jesus is able to save from sin and death… and give life. Now. There aren’t any other qualifiers on the field for that.

    So my hope is that Lent would focus us on someone who didn’t just teach asceticism, but gave His life that we might have life… and is a Living Savior who can be known personally in this present day and age.

  5. Great thoughts. We use lent here (as baptists – go figure) as a tool to focus and as a touchstone. Over the years it’s proven to be more about what we gain and do than what we give up.

    Grace!

    David

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