Beginning on Wednesday 17th February 2021, Lent is a time to holistically prepare for Easter.
What is Lent?
Tim Keller writes “The word “Lent” comes from the Old English word “lengten,” which simply means “spring” — when the days lengthen and new life springs forth [in the Northern Hemisphere]. It is a time in which we anticipate the victory of the light and life of Christ [at Easter] over the darkness of sin and death. It is, to borrow a phrase from C.S. Lewis, a season of a kind of “happiness and wonder that makes you serious.”
For us in the Southern Hemisphere, the connection to Spring is absent, but we instead have the slowing down of growth toward Autumn – cooler mornings, falling leaves, shortening days. Traditionally Lent is a time of fasting and repentance – the “serious” parts of the life of faith – and so we are very well placed in Australia to keep pace with the natural environment during Lent as we slow our thoughts and allow times of reflection to take priority. In the face of mortality, we turn from sin and turn to Christ.
Why “40 Days of Renewal”?
The 40 days of Lent echo the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness in preparation for His ministry. It is a time of wrestling and radical refocus – in order for us to truly apprehend the ministry of Christ expressed in the cross and resurrection of Easter. But it’s not just 40 days of “giving up” in repentance – there is an exchange that takes place. Returning to the Lord in repentance brings renewal. It’s not just the right thing to do (so grit your teeth and get it done), it’s truly good for us. God exchanges our ashes for beauty, our sorrow for joy.
Turning to Christ brings renewed strength, renewed joy, renewed peace and focus. Any kind of fasting ultimately is designed to lead to joy with Christ – an uncluttered vision where we see Him as He is, and our hearts rejoice. Joel 2:13 says “Return to the Lord your God, who is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.” In returning to God in this time, we access grace and mercy, and receive His steadfast love.
“Giving up” or “taking up” during Lent can be a way of signifying to both body and mind that this is a time where something new is happening and that connecting with God is worth the discipline it takes to make a change. However, in the western world where dieting for “beauty” is so prevalent, it can be more radical and useful to take up a spiritual practice or give up certain technology or ways of using your “down time” to make space for reflection and prayer, rather than focus on food. Each one can prayerfully discern how to observe the fast as is right for them and their household at this time and in this place.