The season of Lent has come to mean a great deal to me in recent years. As a child growing up I heard about it but few of the Christians that I knew, sincere and genuine as they were, took Lent very seriously. Some people said “it`s not in the bible, or it’s a man made season, or its not something Jesus called us to do.”
So, we enjoyed (very much!) the pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, Hot Cross buns and the anticipation of Easter and all that went that with it. Lent however, was a time in some people`s church calendar that was of little importance to me.
But as I grew older, I began to appreciate the importance of pausing and thinking about the seasons in my life. The word Lent comes from and Old English word “Lenctern” which actually means Spring. Of course Spring in nature is very much a season of hope. It’s a season of new beginnings, fresh life and the hope of summer and its warmer days ahead. And for Christians, perhaps especially in these days of the pandemic, days of restriction, sadness and grief , approaching Lent as a season of contemplation and hope seems vital.
Lent is a forty day period that begins with Ash Wednesday. I remember my first “Ashing” service just a few years ago. It is a service at the end of which the sign of the cross is traced on each of the worshippers foreheads as the minister speaks the words, “From dust you came and to dust you will return. Repent and believe the Good news.”
Each time those words were uttered over an individual worshipper in the otherwise silent old church I was deeply moved. I heard again the call to live for Christ , the only one in whom true hope is to be found. I sensed the deep privilege of being able to “wear “ the cross as an outward sign of the inner change and joy Christ has brought. I realised I was being given the opportunity to let Him in the words of Psalm 139, “See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” If Lent is only about inviting the Holy Spirit to look into our lives and to empower us to live for Christ with a deeper love and a greater holiness it is worth it.
But, Lent, like Spring, is definitely a season of Hope beyond our wildest dreams. It`s final week begins with palm Sunday, and then through the horror of Good Friday and the joy of Easter Sunday. It’s a season in which we are reminded of the love of God the Father, the Grace of Jesus who has saved us, and the indwelling presence of the Spirit who is with us everywhere and at all times. All this is possible because at Easter the stone was rolled away and the Christ rose to conquer sin, death and hell.
We live today in this dreadful season of the Pandemic. It’s a season of loss, pain, illness and for some deep despair. It feels like the end is still along way off, and there are any worries for the future. But as we approach the season of Lent may I encourage you to try and make it a season of deep and lasting hope.
Even in the shadow of this threat may we carry the hope of the Gospel in this new era, the knowledge of sins forgiven and peace with God, the joy that he will never leave us or forsake us, and the peace that comes from knowing that in the end nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.
May God bless you this Lent and of course through Easter too!
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