Observing Lent – Some thoughts and ideas

lent-cross

Do you observe Lent? Depending on your church background, you might have a different experience of it. For some churches, it’s one of the most important seasons of the year. Other churches don’t even mention it at all. The great thing about having freedom in Christ is, that when it comes to traditions like this that aren’t in the Bible, we’re not bound to keep them. You don’t have to observe Lent to be a faithful Christian. But, on the other hand, observing Lent doesn’t make you an unfaithful Christian. Like so many church traditions, it has great potential for those who choose to run with it. But, as a Christian saved by grace, it’s up to you and God.

If you do observe Lent, or if you’re thinking about it, we’re going to spend just a little time looking into what it is and some different ways it could be done.

What is Lent?

Traditionally, Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. It’s a season for Christians to reflect on our sin, to repent and to gaze upon the mystery that is Jesus’ death on the cross. It starts with Ash Wednesday, a very solemn day where we wear ashes on our forehead to remind us of our sin and our fragile human nature. From dust you came and from dust you shall return. Pretty serious stuff, but it’s one of the foundational truths of our faith that makes the gospel shine even brighter.

For these 40 days, many people choose to fast from something. It could be anything – common things I’ve heard people say recently are chocolate, alcohol, the internet. Going back in time, people were forbidden from eating meat (except fish) during Lent. I think the idea is to choose something you hold close – and give it to God so you can draw deeper into reflection and prayer. When you start wanting that thing, use that hunger to remind you to pray.

If you’re good at maths, you might have noticed that the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday add up to more than 40. That’s because traditionally the Sundays of Lent didn’t count. Sundays have always been joyful symbols of the resurrection, so solemn fasting wasn’t required.

ash-wednesday

Why observe Lent?

  • it’s been observed by the church for hundreds of years – that in itself doesn’t make it essential, but it’s something to think about.

  • it helps us look at our own sinfulness and leads us to honest repentance and growth.

  • it helps us focus more deeply on the cross – when we know we need a Saviour, the salvation found in Jesus’ death means so much more.

What can I do?

There are lots of different ways that you can do Lent. You can follow the church traditions as closely as possible, or you can take ideas that you like and leave the rest. Or you could come up with something completely new. Here are just a few ideas and resources to help you on your way.

  • Read a Lent devotional

There are many Lent devotionals that give a Bible reading and a reflection for each day. Some options include: (I haven’t fully read through all of these, but they’ve all been recommended to me)

  • Go to an Ash Wednesday service

  • Fast from one meal each day

  • Go medieval and fast from meat (except fish)

  • Give up junk food

  • Give up social media – the whole thing or just the one you go on most (this could be even harder than fasting from food!)

  • Give up a particular sin. Maybe it’s being fearful. Maybe anger. Maybe gossip. Repent, ask God for help and rejoice in the forgiveness won through the cross.

  • Take something up for Lent – instead of just giving something up, why not intentionally take up something good? Take up prayer. Take up generosity. Bible reading. Hospitality. Courage. Love.

Is there something on this list that speaks to you? Don’t feel you have to do everything – that could get overwhelming.

Whatever you choose to do for Lent, I pray that it won’t just be from a spirit of tradition or legalism, but from a genuine desire to draw closer to Jesus through the cross.

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10 thoughts on “Observing Lent – Some thoughts and ideas

  1. Fasting from a meal a day is a great idea, along side a study is a great way to practice Lent! Thanks for the suggestion! xo, Shelby

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  2. I love that there are resources popping up for reflection during the Lent season that focus on our relationship with Jesus, and building excitement for Easter versus being seeped legalism. We have never recognized Lent as a family (or as I was growing up) but I plan on doing so to help build up to Easter without commercialism for our kids. I think there’s so much hype about Christmas and Thanksgiving, but for us as Christians, Easter is even more important and it goes largely untouched other than by the Easter Bunny. I didn’t know that She Reads Truth has a series for Lent, can’t wait to look into it!

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  3. Growing up, we used to sort of do Lent – we had Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday without too much in between. I agree that it’s a great way to help shift the focus of the Easter Bunny and back onto Jesus.

    The She Reads Truth Lent devotional is beautiful. This year I think they’re doing Isaiah, but I’ve just been reading through Isaiah in the mornings, so I’ll be going through one of the old Lent ones instead!

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  4. I have been a practicing Catholic my entire life, so Lent has always been a big part of my spiritual journey. Much like Kayla mentioned above, it helps me prepare spiritually for Easter. During those few years that I didn’t strictly observe Lent, I simply did not fully appreciate the joy of the Resurrection. Your reflection so beautifully captures the purpose and practice of Lent, and I hope it helps people from all traditions prepare for Easter in their own way.

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  5. Thanks for the encouraging words, Melissa! I know what you mean about Lent helping prepare for Easter. Last year we were so busy with wedding planning (we got married the week after Easter), but this year I’ve actually got the time to reflect and anticipate.

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  6. Lenten practices are a huge part of my experience as a Lutheran. It’s a time to get closer to Jesus–and more honest.

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