Lent is a 40-day journey. And the nature of any journey is change. Change can come about slowly, or as a scales-falling-from-our-eyes event, or as something subtle we don’t notice until all is said and done. But we never arrive at a destination exactly as we were when we started, even when we know where we are going. We are heading toward Easter and, no matter what, we will come to the Feast of feasts changed even from how we began the 40 days. Contrary to what many of us have been taught, Lent is not simply a 40-day journey of saying “no” to certain foods, or habits, or pleasures. It’s more than a season of self-negation. Lent developed in the early centuries of the Christian church as the time of final preparation by the persons who were going to be baptized. Eventually, by the 4th century, baptisms occurred on Easter so this final preparation period occurred in the weeks prior to Holy Week and Easter. Lent was the final intensification in one’s spiritual journey approaching the moment of baptism, the watery dying and rising with Jesus Christ sealing one’s alignment and new identity in Him. The church continues this practice of Lent. But it is broadened to invite all of us who have already been baptized to come to the waters again. Not for a physical act of rebaptism, but as our annual season of renewal of faith, of what it means to live as a follower of Jesus Christ. Accompanying those preparing for Easter baptism, locally and world-wide, we, the alreadybaptized, enter a season of time where we dig deeper into our own journey of dying and rising, into what it means for us live as Christ’s own in this world. Just as those early Christians were learning what it meant to live as Christ’s own in their lifetime, we do the same. So Lent does include some negation.
 


What in me is not yet conformed to the image of Christ?
The early church had staunch things to say to those who were gladiators, astrologers, and public officials. What allegiances do we retain that compete for our allegiance to Christ and the reign of God? Our false allegiances happen inwardly and outwardly. The Lenten journey to Easter is our annual opportunity to intensely renew what it means to be united with Christ, to be aligned with Christ, to live as Christ’s own –– in and for the world. Old traditions of the church would have us pray, fast, and give alms more often than we do otherwise. These are practices meant to inculcate our utter dependence on God. The scriptures on the back of this page are the lections (selections), called the Revised Common Lectionary, a global, ecumenical pattern of reading scripture. These Lenten lections are ancient, with the gospel readings guiding the ways that the texts reveal the One to whom we commit our lives. Welcome to the Lenten journey. Prepare to look inwardly and outwardly, individually and corporately, to turn from all that is not of Christ, to turn to and renew your alignment with Christ.

Welcome to the Lenten journey. Prepare to be changed.


Rev. Dr. Jennifer L. Lord
The Dorothy B. Vickery Professor of Homiletics and Liturgical Studies,
Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary

   
 
 
 
   
 
   

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