Lent begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. Today is Fat Tuesday, the day to party and indulge before the great Lenten fast. Except most people keep indulging and few fast.
This pandemic Lent is an opportunity to renew our faith. Lent, the period of 40 days before Easter with Sundays off, began as a period for converts to prepare themselves for baptism on Easter Vigil (the night before Easter). The church modeled the period on Jesus’ 40 days and nights in the wilderness preparing to start his ministry.
When the Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its state religion in fourth century, new Christians who knew little about the faith overwhelmed the church. Many were Christians in name only and continued to practice their pagan religion.
As a result, the church made fasting and renunciation a part of Lent for everyone. The church invited its members to commit or re-commit more deeply to the faith. This also was a strategy to keep the church separate from the pagan culture around it.
Some cultural separation is a good idea for the American church today. Start by participating in a Lenten lifestyle assessment. Here are a few questions to ponder on this Fat Tuesday:
- How can you make your daily Scripture reading and prayer more meaningful?
- Can you find an online course or retreat to deepen your practice or your knowledge?
- What Christian books and biographies have you been meaning to read?
- What are the places in your life where you routinely exclude the presence of God?
- What does God want you to give up in your daily life? (Look at use of food, social media, drinking, etc.)
Start preparing today for a Lent that deepens your experience of Christian mindfulness.