Today is Wednesday. It’s the first day of March. A quick Google search tells us that today is also many other things:
- World math day
- Give a compliment day
- Refired not retired day (whatever that means)
- National pig day
- Self-injury awareness day
- And my favorite: National plan a solo vacation day.
Today is all those things. But for those who have followed Jesus throughout the world and throughout history, today is something else. Today is Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
What is Lent?
The word Lent comes from a Latin word meaning “lengthen.” This is used to describe the lengthened season leading up to Holy Week; roughly forty days or so. Throughout Church history, Christians have seen this time as a space to prepare for the significance we celebrate on the coming days of Good Friday and Easter Sunday. “Preparing” takes on a number of forms during Lent. We read certain scriptures, say certain prayers, and perhaps most famously, we fast from certain things. Fasting simply means laying down habits, practices, attitudes or activities that could either be impeding on our spiritual growth by their very nature, or simply because of an excess of those things. We lay these things down as a practice of self-denial. Self-denial is not a very popular or fun phrase, but scripture teaches that through discipline and self-denial, true freedom is found. The kind of freedom that is preached about around this time of year. Through this kind of self-denial, Lent calls us to declutter our souls as we prepare to truly receive the gift of Christ crucified and risen.
This decluttering of our souls can sometimes be painful because we realize just how cluttered they are. We see just how far off we may have wandered. This is why Lent is a season of repentance. Repentance. Now THAT is not a fun word these days. Whatever image or feeling that comes to mind when you hear the word repentance, probably isn’t too pretty. This is a tragedy because repentance is a BEAUTIFUL word. It means that there is a way for us to come back home. No matter how far off we have wandered. This is what Lent is about. The purpose of Lent is for us to find our own journey to the Cross even as we celebrate Christ’s. Repentance is an invitation to true life.
Why does Lent matter?
I did not grow up observing Lent. If you’re like me, the whole thing is both shrouded in mystery that catches me curious, while at the same time it can be offputting because of the seemingly “dry” “tradition” of it all. However, I’ve said this before: The greatest gifts to my spirituality over the past three years have been the practices of Sabbath, Advent and Lent. It took me a awhile to realize why that is but then I noticed that these three practices all have to do with the same thing: Time.
This speaks to the importance of time and how we are shaped by it and in it. Just as much as spaces shape us, time has a significant impact on how we live and what we believe to be most true of the world. Certain kinds of time signal to us how we are to be thinking, feeling, and experiencing life right here and right now. The truth is, we let so many other things tell us what “time” it is. For example, when you walk into a store in late August you see school supplies on sale and you know it is back to school season and summer is over. Football playoffs, Taco Tuesday, Award season, Spring break, Etc. all of these kinds of time are attempting to tell us what is important and what we should be focusing on.
None of these are bad however I wonder what it would look like if we took our cues on time from God and God’s people throughout the centuries. Because God’s time is different. The time of Lent bends our attention towards Christ journey to the cross and forces us to confront our fallenness, our brokenness, and our lostness that Christ takes with him to that cross.
Like Advent, Lent is about preparation. Lent gives us space to not only recognize our humanity, but also to embrace our limits and finitude. Personally, I hate feeling negative feelings. I am what some personality tests would call “peter-pan inclined.” This means that I never want to “grow up” or “deal” with the negative. But this is the hidden beauty of Lent. It allows us to process the darker sides of life. Where else can you confront these realities? Our culture (like my personality) is so obsessed with avoiding these realities that there is no space or permission given to embrace them for what they are. This is the gift of Lent. When we find ourselves snapping at our friends because we haven’t had caffeine or sugar, or going crazy because we haven’t checked social media or finished that Netflix show we were binging, we realize that those feelings of impatience, fear, anger, selfishness and insecurity have always been there, we have simply learned how to cover them up.
Lent is about remembering these things. Remembering your humanity. Your limits and your frailty. But it is also about remembering your Baptism. Remembering what is possible. Remembering that you are always invited to come home. To declutter your soul. To have your sin crucified with Christ. To be made new. To experience resurrection. You are invited to repent.
Introducing “The Invitation” a Lent series
With all of this in mind, we want to invite you to join us for just that...an Invitation. The Invitation of Lent series will focus on the different things we are invited to experience during this time of Lent. We will look at the various aspects and approaches to repentance such as the invitation to reflect, to grieve, to pause. And hopefully we will show up to the familiar days of Good Friday and Easter more deeply formed and ready to participate in Christ’s work on the cross as well as his victory over death. Each week we will hear from a Guest Contributor as they reflect on what exactly Lent invites us into and how we can lean in more and more.
Our prayer is that through this season you will say yes to this invitation and all that it means.
Because the truth is, in order to truly experience the death, burial and resurrection of God himself as profoundly and deeply as we are invited to, some serious preparation is required.
Easter can mean so much more than chocolate and pastels. The question is, will we take God up on His invitation?
INSTAGRAM & TWITTER: @JONATHONMURILLO
Jonathon grew up in six different states across the Western United States. He made his way to Southern California to attend Vanguard University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication. Currently, he is pursuing a Master's of Divinity Degree at Azusa Pacific University where he also works doing campus ministry with college students. Jonathon is passionate about discipleship to Jesus and innovation, especially when those two spaces meet. He aspires to encourage people to live well-curated lives of purpose and passion. You can find Jonathon living in his beloved city of Costa Mesa, California with his amazing wife, Cyndi. Oh yeah, and he is a HUGE Raiders fan.