Remember what Lent is all about

Published 6:26 pm Tuesday, February 28, 2017

BY JACK ALVEY | St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

The season of Lent is typically defined as the 40 days that immediately precede Easter (excluding Sundays).

The number 40 is a significant number in scripture and can also be defined as a long time but not forever.

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The Israelites spent 40 years in the wilderness with Moses before Joshua led them into the Promised Land.

Jesus was tempted by Satan for  40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness before the angels waited on him.  Therefore, the Church, recognizes these 40 days as a time of spiritual longing for renewal.

Often this spiritual longing for renewal is aided by spiritual disciplines that help us remember our need for God. These disciplines might include giving something up, taking something on, re-committing to daily prayer, the reading of scripture, and acts of service.  While these disciplines are certainly encouraged, I would like to offer a word of caution.

Sometimes these disciplines tempt us into believing that we are a better person for having observed these disciplines.

While you may improve your life through certain disciplines, the Lenten season does not call you to become a better person.

Quite the contrary. Lent is not about us but about the one who died for us.

The Lenten season ultimately calls us to repentance.  During the invitation to a holy Lent on Ash Wednesday, we are called to “make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature” we kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer, and are reminded that we are dust and to dust we shall return.

In other words, the Lenten season is a call to remember that even our best attempts to become a better person are done in vain.

The call of the gospel is not a self-improvement project.

Rather, the call of the gospel is a call to experience grace and new life through repentance.

Through the gift of repentance, God is offering the faithful an opportunity to put our trust not in our own good works but in the one whose work through his life, death and resurrection creates for us the new life that our heart truly longs for — a life of peace amidst the storms of life.

May these 40 days be marked by a willingness to die to a world that is telling you to be better so you can rise to a life that makes you better through God’s immeasurable love for you.

May you starve yourself to the temptation to make a name for yourself so that you might thirst for the name that you are already given through God’s beloved — Jesus our Lord.

And may this Lenten season make your heart long for new creation that is revealed in our risen Lord Jesus Christ.