Lent is the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter, excluding Sundays. The purpose of observing Lent is to recognize that we are vulnerable, broken people who are in need. Lent disrupts our lives, our calendars, our comforts and our rhythms. It gives us the space to acknowledge that we are human, that we are frail and that we are in need of Grace. Lent is a time to confess and repent of one’s sin, to confront the excesses and idols in our lives, and to engage in spiritual disciplines that will lead us into a deeper spirituality. A well-observed Lent prepares us to enter more deeply, purposefully and passionately into our relationship with Christ.
On Ash Wednesday we are offered the opportunity to receive a cross of ashes on our foreheads. We are reminded of the Biblical passage, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19). In the Bible, the imposition of ashes is associated with sorrow over sins.
The Bible says Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness preparing for his ministry. This is a time of preparation and remembering Jesus’ suffering and death for our salvation.
The long-standing practice of denying ourselves something during Lent helps us name distractions that keep us from seeing the love and grace of God in our lives. In the act of fasting we open ourselves up to see how God might be speaking to us, individually and communally. It is never subtraction for subtraction sake, but subtraction so that we can be open to see what God is telling us and where God is moving in our lives. It can free up time and resources which we can use for worship, prayer, study and service to others.
As we journey through the Lenten season, you will notice the use of a crucifix in our worship services. A crucifix is a three-dimensional cross with a representation of Jesus’ body, as distinct from a cross with no body. It is a principal symbol for many groups of Christians. While we celebrate the empty cross on Easter morning, the crucifix reminds us that Jesus suffered for us as the ultimate sign of God’s grace.