Tuesday, February 28, 2006

WHY I "DO LENT"

To one who asks, "Isn't Lent a Roman Catholic thing?", I may respond: "Yes, but are we Protestants not first of all Catholic?" Lent was not something to which Martin Luther protested. Nor is it a borrowed festival or season contrived to serve shallower purposes of the administered and promotional aspects of the church. No doubt, a lot of crass marketing swirls around the occasion of Lent. Still, Lent is more natural for us to observe than the recently-contrived, market-driven "40 Days of Purpose" at some other time of the year.

CENTRAL FOCUS. For those who take the Bible seriously and who seek to enter into its living story of salvation, Lent offers a simple, 6-week structure around which events most significant to the Christian faith--the Passion, Crucifixion, and Death of Jesus Christ--are lifted up, focused on, re-membered, proclaimed, meditated upon, and entered into anew--and in a public manner. Lent invites us to walk with Jesus and his original followers as he sets his face toward Jerusalem, suffering, crucifixion, and death.

BEFORE EASTER... In the season of Easter we will celebrate, meditate on, and apply the Resurrection. In the season of Pentecost, we will celebrate, meditate on, and apply the Holy Spirit poured out on believers, enlivening and empowering the church. But before Easter hope or Pentecost power comes Passion perspective.

TAKING SCRIPTURE'S CUE. One reason I observe Lent is because so much of the Gospels focuses on these days in Jesus' life. At least one Bible scholar calls the Gospels "Passion narratives with extended introductions." The Gospel of John, in particular, invites us to take our time with the days Jesus spends on his last journey to and in Jerusalem. Lent offers us the opportunity to walk this journey deliberately and carefully. Who would want to miss something we've overlooked before?

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