Welcome to Lenten season friends! Regardless of whether or not you celebrate it, the 40 days before Easter, immediately following Mardi Gras is here. We’ve danced, we’ve partied, and now it’s time for us to prepare our hearts for the somewhat solemn, yet redeeming and victorious act of God.
My experience with Lent has varied over the years. I grew up celebrating it, and continue to do it until this day. In the past few years, though, I have changed my thinking about these 40 days to be more about giving something up with the intent of becoming closer and closer to God.
And for the record, one of the most controversial conversations I have had in Christians circles about Lent go a little something like this:
“Toni, what is Lent?” It’s the season of preparation, fasting, and consecration of our hearts and minds during the 40 days preceding Easter.
“I didn’t know you were Catholic.” I’m not, more than Catholics celebrate Lent.
“Like who?” Like Methodists. I was Methodist for about 15 years before I joined the church I’m at now. Lent is a thing in the Methodist Church.
“I don’t think you’re right, Toni. Only Catholics celebrate Lent.” I can also tell you that I grew up in a non-denominational church like the one I attend now. We celebrated Lent.
“No. You didn’t” Ummmm….okay. But I learned about it from somewhere and I think it was from my Mama.”
Did I mention this was the conversation in Christian circles?
It’s true that Lent is probably most known for its prevalence in the Catholic community. It’s true that it is a tradition and a ritualistic act for many. For others though, it signifies the importance of Easter in a very personal way.
I’m not talking about the pastel colors, the Easter eggs, and the bunnies.
I’m talking about Jesus, the cross, our sins.
More specifically and for me, it’s about my relationship with Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew affirms for us that Jesus is the Messiah who has come according to the Old Testament scriptures. While this is the basis for our celebration of Easter, it is unfortunately also a time of sorrow and sadness. A visual bible by the Alabaster Company incorporates the beauty of God’s Word with the importance of Jesus’ story.
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Here are three examples of what this season means to me and how they are visible in the book of Matthew:
Preparation is Good. The preparation of my heart is better. When I think about what we’re having for dinner or get caught up in the coolest way to decorate Easter eggs this year, Lent reminds me to regain focus. Easter is about Jesus. And even though I may have found the perfect outfit for me to wear to church this year, I need the reminder that this season is about Him and what He did for me (and you).
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I don’t know about you, friends, but I want my heart and my treasure to reflect that of Jesus.
My family connects across the miles. My parents and I live a thousand miles apart. We rarely go to church together. As a matter of fact, my mother has been attending her current church for almost five years now and because of the distance, I haven’t been once. Lent is something we celebrate across the miles. We talk about our fasts, we pray for one another, and we eagerly anticipate the Resurrection together, through Lent. As a matter of fact, the book of Matthew opens with the genealogy of Jesus. There’s not a better way to connect with my own family of origin than through the lineage of Jesus (which includes some of my Bible favorites like Rahab, Ruth, David, and Mary.)
Fasting is an important part of my life. If I do it in my everyday life, why wouldn’t I do it during special occasions? Whether or not it’s a sacrifice of desserts, coffee, social media, shopping or anything else, I can’t think of a better time or more special occasion to sacrifice something and replace it with more time in prayer and doing good works in the name of the Lord. This year, I am focusing on kindness and rediscovering the things I can do to show kindness to those who I come in contact with.
“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
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How are you celebrating Lent this year?