Here we are, already deep into Lent preparing for the second Sunday of the season this week. Yes, even Baptists (at least some of us) celebrate it too.
Is Lent all about just giving something up and not cheating? Is Lent just about restraining words of exclamation, “Allueias” in worship? Is Lent just a time of confession and repentance where we come to church to feel bad about ourselves? Or is it something deeper?
Growing up in a tradition that did not celebrate Lent (lent to me was that fuzzy stuff you find in the dryer) still feel the observance of this season is seeping into me. I know I"m still figuring it out. Afterall, Lent is something that you practice.
The first year I observed Lent, right after graduating from college, I acted as though the Lent disciplines were a race. Forty days of self-sacrifice: "Game on!" I said. I gave up soda that year and as much as I really wanted to cheat, I abstained day after day with hopes of finishing strong and satisfied with “accomplishment” of Lent on Easter morn. But, the more I’ve practiced and preached about Lent, these past several years, I’ve realized that words like “accomplishment” or “sacrifice” are not as much about “Lent” as we might have thought.
This year as a corporate community at Washington Plaza, we are observing Lent with the theme “Promises in the Night: Sitting with Jesus in the Dark Night of the Soul.” In worship we’ll be combining gospel readings about the last days of Jesus on earth with some of the most hopeful promise texts of the Old Testament as a way of sitting with Lent in a new way this year. We’ll consider the darkness because we’ve all been to the darkness, if we aren’t sitting with it right now. This week's promise is: "I wil remember you."
So, besides encouraging you to come to corporate worship as often as your schedule allows (in Reston or wherever you are)—to explore ideas of promises, darkness and waiting with one another’s soul: I also want to challenge you to not try to conquer Lent this year. No matter what your Lent practices may be let this be a year that we simply sat with Lent. Let us not hurry. May we claim that the darkness as ok, for a time. Let us not be afraid. Let us simply allow the promises of God arrive through cracks, bit by bit. I believe if we do so, by time we get to Easter, there’re be quite a party going on at the church on the Plaza (and elsewhere) because the joy of our light will overflow!
"From ashes you came and ashes you shall return." Let Lent tary on.