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What is Lent?

Sunday we started a new series for the lenten season "LENT: Leave Everything Not Transformed." I know many of you have never practiced any type of lenten observance and may even wonder what Lent is. Early on in the church and I mean the first 300 years we read that there was a tradition of fasting before celebrating the resurrection. Many churches fasted weekly, on Friday, to commemorate the crucifixion of Jesus. These fasts were sometimes total, meaning only water was consumed. Sometimes these fasts were of meat and they only ate vegetables. Some people modified this and ate fish. While the exact expression of it changed, the practice of self-denial was nearly universal. It was a sacrifice that you felt in your body which was a reminder of the sacrifice Christ felt in his body.

Give it some time and this fast turns into a season of self-denial leading up to Easter. They felt that 40 days leading up to Easter was a good time to remind us of the sacrifice of Christ. Why 40 days? That’s how long Jesus fasted in the desert, that’s how long Moses & Elijah fasted in the desert, 40 years was how long the Israelites wandered in the desert before coming to the promised land. 40 days, 6 weeks, it seemed like a good idea. So, the church by the 6th century solidifies the practice of fasting 40 days to remember the sacrifice of Christ and the approximate 40 hours he laid in the tomb.

This season begins with Ash Wednesday where people line up and a pastor or priest puts ashes on their foreheads saying, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Think about that, you wake up early to go to the morning Ash Wednesday service, and you are reminded of this one key truth, “You will die.” Some traditions add the phrase, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.” In other words, get right with God.

“You will die, repent and believe in the gospel.” That’s the idea of Lent; it’s a call to get right with God by eliminating the distractions. Getting rid of the things that keep us from Him! Leaving behind everything that is not transformed. This is why on Ash Wednesday and other days throughout Lent some traditions will not eat meat, not engage in unnecessary shopping, and give something up. It’s to remind them that what they really need only God can provide.

We live in an age where everything is so indulgent and convenient. We can get anything we want Ubered to us! I think it will do us good to observe this season in some way as we prepare our hearts and minds for the resurrection.