As I keep saying, I don’t intend this to be just a Lutheran blog, so please bear with me, those of you who don’t make a big deal about the church year, in today’s Ash Wednesday theme. I offer you this, though, an article by Jim Denison on why his fellow Baptists could find celebrating Lent helpful and meaningful.
Read the whole article, linked below, which includes some interesting historical background:
“Lent” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon or Teutonic word “lencten,” which means “spring.” As strange as it is to Baptist ears, it’s easier than quadragesima, the Latin term for the period (meaning “40 days” or more literally, “the 40th day”). Greeks called this season tessarakoste (“40th”).
As its names imply, Lent is a 40-day observance that occurs each spring. (The 40-day period excludes Sundays, which are to be weekly celebrations of the Resurrection.) Why 40 days?
Jesus fasted in the wilderness and was tempted for “40 days and 40 nights” (Matthew 4:2). As he used these days to prepare for his public ministry, so we use them to prepare for his resurrection and to minister in his name through the rest of the year.
In addition, the Hebrews wandered in the wilderness for 40 years of purification before entering their Promised Land. The world was flooded for 40 days during the time of Noah, washing away the evil that had infested it. According to tradition, Jesus’ body lay 40 hours in the tomb before the Easter miracle. All these facts led early Christians to set aside 40 days before Easter for spiritual preparation and purification. . . .
Lenten observance began very early, as both Irenaeus (died A.D. 202) and Tertullian (died A.D. 225) refer to it. It was originally very brief, a 40-hour fast, growing eventually to a week. By A.D. 325, the Council of Nicaea recognized 40 days of Lent.
The author gives several reasons why Lent is relevant for Baptists. Some of them I question, but I appreciate his last one:
We need a period each year for intentional spiritual introspection and contemplation. John R. W. Stott said that he required an hour a day, a day a week, and a week a year to be alone with his Lord. We need a time every year for spiritual renewal. Just as students need a Spring Break, so do souls. Lent is a wonderful season for such renewal: as the physical world is renewing itself, so should the spiritual.
A Spring Break for the soul! I like that. Not to be confused, of course, with Mardi Gras!