Unfortunately some Christians live as though the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ never happened. Our lives become absorbed in the day-to-day experiences of life. We focus on name-brand clothing, the color of our houses, the size of our bank account, the year and make of our automobile, the prestige in which others hold us, and the symbols of our own power. We too easily forget our Maker and Redeemer, replacing God with things and ambition. Lent is the season that does something about this situation. It calls us back to God, back to basics, back to the spiritual realities of life. It calls on us to put to death the sin and the indifference we have in our hearts toward God and our fellow persons. And it beckons us to enter once again into the joy of the Lord – the joy of a new life born out of a death to the old life. – Robert Webber
The evangelicals I grew up with prided themselves on their freedom from the Christian year. I was guilty of this, myself, especially around Lent. In my former native spiritual tongue, I would say, “I’m already saved. I don’t have to fast to prove it. I don’t need to work.”
Of course, we observed a few occasions of our choice, didn’t we? Christmas, Easter. Maybe a mention of Good Friday. And we quite happily formed our own de facto liturgical calendar by superimposing the regular legal holidays over our plans. Mothers’ Day and Independence Day are a couple of the biggest feast days for a church culture with no liturgical rudder.
One of the things my own Lenten observances have shown me was the tremendous amount of jesusy gluttony I practiced. Church for me was all “alleluia” all the time. The whisper of indifference that Webber speaks of creeps in unnoticed over the excessive celebration, and blows up inside the spirit like a balloon, choking out any need for introspection. Lent is a practice that keeps that from happening for me. It’s the church’s regularly scheduled detox from all the sin and the crap and the debris we so easily accumulate in our frenetic existence. Not because God’s grace requires perfection, but because true discipleship asks of us repentance.
So I observe Lent. Not because I have to, but because I get to. Because I need to.