Here we are in Lent and I am among the heathens who did not go to any formal Ash Wednesday service, still drinking coffee, eating meat, and listening to U2’s new album non-stop. Later, I’ll post on what I am doing for Lent.
As most of my friends know, I come from a conservative Protestant background. Lent was deemed a “Catholic thing”, and we all knew what that meant. Well, actually we didn’t, that’s why we are so interested in it now. There are many beautiful aspects of the way the Catholics (and main-line churches) celebrate their faith. And while there are reasons why I am not Catholic (and fewer of not being a main-liner), among them, you don’t need to be Catholic to observe the practices of the Church prior to the Reformation, I am grateful for the many beautiful traditions they celebrate and practice. Among my hopes is that they too would be blessed by many of the Protestant aspects as well.
I think some of my evangelical Protestant friends believe that Lent was invented just 10 years ago with this emerging church thing. It came right along with Lecto-Divina, Henry Nouwen, and the Holy Spirit. For some, they just won’t get it. That’s fine, there are a lot of things that I don’t get (like country music), and I am content that they practice their faith the way that Spirit leads them.
The first church I began working at observed the Advent-Lenten seasons. It was an independent, conservative, Protestant church and its doctrinal statement is virtually identical in terms of belief to where I serve now. Combined with the emergent books that I started reading then, it’s not that great of a mystery that I haven’t given up these traditions. That’s interesting to me but I’ll move on. Each year, we would have an Ash Wednesday service where we would actually perform the imposition of ashes. We even used the palm branches from last year and mixed them with oil that was from a catalog that had a picture of the Holy Lands on it (we weren’t complete suckers). Truth be told, it was one of my favorite services and one year, the senior pastor was too ill and I had the honor of leading it.
It is clear to me how observing Lent has blessed my celebration of Easter. In all honesty, I was glad to leave that church but God showed us a lot during those 5 years. Combined with the great friendships we made, the experiences we had, and connecting with some of these traditions were a great blessing to me and I am grateful to continue in some way. An example includes the worshipful moment of doing Ash Wednesday in our Senior High youth group last night. (Maybe I’ll mention that later.)
If you haven’t, I’d like to encourage you to do something for Lent, even if you begin today or next week. Whether it be reading a devotional, giving up something or serving in some new capacity or the many other ideas, I think you will find it beautiful in connecting it to this time where we reflect on the cost of our sins and the resurrection of our Savior.