You shouldn’t leave me without electricity for a number of hours. It provides more time for reflection. As light broke over the east and I realized we had heat and I began to think more about this season of Lent. I had initially meditated upon the origin of the word. It comes from an Anglo-Saxon root meaning “to lengthen” as in the lengthening of the days in the season of spring. Our days will begin to noticeably lengthen soon as the clocks spring forward this evening. It is all well and good to have longer days. I considered grand parallels to earth’s renewal and Christ’s resurrection. However, none of those things have much to do with the season of Lent as it is now practiced throughout the mainline church.
Why do we observe something for which there is no Biblical warrant? This is my question. It is an optional extra on the automobile we call church. To suggest this, in some quarters, would be like suggesting removing Christmas or Easter. Lent is seen as part of the fabric which constitutes Christianity. This may be how it is seen but the fact remains: Lent is a manufactured season. It is a season of self-denial, confession, and repentance. Those are bad concepts, unhealthy in the best environments. While many people are drenched in emotional and physical poverty, racked with doubt, and trying to come out from some form slavery (financial or emotional) is the church asking people to make themselves unnecessarily vulnerable or are we trying to help them get better? Are we doing this for a concept which doesn’t appear anywhere in the New Testament? Or, are we in effect saying, “admit your deepest most painful stuff for six weeks than go right back to bottling it up because we don’t have the mental health resources to point you in the right direction to get you the help you need.”
Lent sounds Biblical. There are things in the Lenten lectionary passages that you might say are “Lenten-esque” but the word Lent isn’t used anywhere in the Bible. Why have we felt the need to manufacture a season of maudlin emotions in order for people to gain a greater appreciation for the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus? If the resurrection is what we claim it to be and Jesus is who we say he is, why does he need us emotionally distraught, starved, denied, beat up, and physically diminished to grasp the true meaning of the greatest event in human history? After six weeks of fasting and self-denial, would we not be able to understand what we claim we already believe? It’s like we’re playing a game of “see how holy we are” when we don’t need to be playing anything at all. We need to be ready to do things about the reality of an empty tomb rather than spend six weeks complaining about what we did give up or didn’t give up and telling God how much you feel like you’re a horrible person. God knows how bad we are and God’s still going to show up on Easter Sunday morning. That’s the Good News.