Several years ago I was talking with someone who attended the local mega-church. He was excited to tell me that his pastor had started a new tradition leading up to Easter called Lent. I asked if he meant that the church had started to observe Lent this year. “Oh no, he invented it for this year. Isn’ t it a cool idea?” Lord have mercy.
The season of Lent does seem to be gaining in its observance and popularity. People reported higher than average attendance for Ash Wednesday services. A glance at social media on Wednesday showed a large number of people proudly displaying their ashes in selfies. It seemed like I saw more people with ash-ey crosses on their forehead and hand in years past. So why is this 40 day period of (excluding Sundays) of reflection and examination of our lives suddenly en vogue?
I’ll take a guess at three reasons:
We Are Broken
You only need to live with a little compassion to feel the brokenness of our world and our institutions. We have become too adept at inflicting pain upon each other. This is especially true in the way our institutions seek to deny the sacred worth of all people in God’s eyes. Lent invites us to consider what it would take for our world to be fully alive through the love and grace of God. We are ready to confront our brokenness.
We Are Ready
We have had enough of the ways in which God has been used to exclude, diminish, and belittle others. We are led to repent of the systemic sins that lead us further away from God’s shalom. There is something offering us the conviction that now is the season to really consider how God would have us live.
We Are Hungry
We are hungry for something more. A life built on accumulating stuff, paying attention only to ourselves, and ignoring the needs of our neighbors has left us wanting more. God has far bigger dreams for each of us, only waiting for us to get our act together and live into those dreams. We are hungry to move from our brokenness into the wholeness that God intends for each person. The narrative is that the church is in decline and while that may be somewhat true, it’s not entirely true. We are hungry for the holy and for communities that reflect the true nature of the holy.
Who knew Lent would become the “in” thing? Now, let’s not let it go to waste.