Lent is a time of year where many people around the globe practice self-denial. Valentines Day is a day where many people practice self-indulgence. In fact this year Ash Wednesday (The kickoff to lent) is sandwiched in between Fausnaught Day/Mardi Gras and Valentines Day. Two days of “Say yes to excess” So what do we do with this? Well I’d like to give you a KISS.
The problem with the way many people practice the ancient Christian tradition of Lent is that it has become self-focused rather than a season of preparation. When Jesus comes back he’s not going to say, “Oh good, you gave up chocolate! Anyone with that kind of self-control is welcome into my Kingdom.” For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Romans 14:17 (ESV)
The way to righteousness, peace and joy is not by focusing on ourselves, but focusing on Jesus. We make things complicated: don’t do this, do that, don’t do that other thing. Jesus makes it simple: “Come follow me.” And so during Lent we Keep It Simple . If we’re going to celebrate Lent, let’s do it through simplicity, not rules. Traditionally this is the time of year for quiet reflection. That can be hard to come by in our 24/7 culture. You may have to give something up, but the question becomes, how does that draw you closer to Jesus? If it is merely good for your health, or good for avoiding guilty feelings, then we’ve missed the point.
Lent leads up to Good Friday where it was Jesus who denied himself in our place. Lent leads up to Easter where Jesus invites us to receive new life in his present and coming Kingdom. Lent is a lead-in to joy, peace, and a righteousness that we do not earn by self sacrifice but are given through Jesus’ sacrifice. It’s true that in order to assume our new identity in Jesus we need to let go of our self-constructed identity. This dying to self is pictured in baptism. In the Early Church Baptisms were performed at Easter and Lent was used as preparation for people who desired to be baptized. But in baptism the goal is not just to go under, but to come up again. The same should be true for Lent, may we rise this season to greet Jesus.