With the sign of the cross on our foreheads from our Ash Wednesday service and our little purple sheets of give-ups and take-ups we have moved into the Lenten season. Lent is a season of forty days leading up to Easter. The forty days does not include the Sundays during this time. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. The origin of the word Lent is an Anglo-Saxon word, lencten, which means “spring”. Lent is the season in which we prepare ourselves for Easter. In the early days, Lent was a time of fasting and preparation for baptism of converts. Eventually, it became a time of penance. Each year we remind ourselves of our need for repentance and therefore our need to remove ourselves from the temptations of life which separate us from the Will of God. Because each Sunday during Lent is a little Easter, we also celebrate the resurrection of the Lord and our own expectation of resurrection.
We often joke about what we are giving up for Lent, similar to the way we joke about New Year’s resolutions, especially when we don’t follow through with our commitment. It is always good, therefore, to stop and reflect on the meaning of this season. When we receive the ashes on Ash Wednesday, we are being marked outwardly as a Christian, as a follower of the Way. Some will wipe the ashes away when they leave so that others in the community will not see them, so that they will not be embarrassed. This happens each Sunday throughout the year for many as they try to hide or at least subdue their Christian nature for fear of not fitting into the everyday secular world of their friends. The spiritual truth is we have all been marked forever by the Lord. It is a reminder of whose we are. We have been marked by the Lord for a life of surrender to the will of God. We have been marked by the Lord for a life of giving ourselves away, not only to God, but to others. We remind ourselves during Lent that we have been set free from the bondage of the material world so that we can live a life of servitude in the presence of the Lord. I pray that each of you will be looking with anticipation to the season of Lent and the opportunities it gives us to prepare ourselves anew or to repair our hearts for the journey of faith that is the Way of the Lord.