Springtime of Renewal
As the snow descended upon the Twin Cities, the season of Lent started with Ash Wednesday. These two terms — Lent and Ash Wednesday — are another excellent example of how framing works. What comes to your mind when you read them? It is never just simply Lent or merely Ash Wednesday — It is Lent as and Ash Wednesday as. Historically, I have typically understood Lent as something I didn’t need to concern myself with and Ash Wednesday as just a Roman Catholic thing and not worthy of my Protestant attention (Lent, by the way, is not just a Roman Catholic thing. Many people across the Christian tradition observe it). Due to how I framed Lent and Ash Wednesday, I never really paid that much attention to them. I wonder these days, specifically concerning Lent, whether I should. To put some at ease, this is not a call that Christians MUST, SHOULD, or OUGHT to observe Lent. I am simply unpacking the ramblings in my mind as I consider ancient paths the church has traveled in her quest to be more like her Head. Here are some resources that I am using to get acquainted with the season: Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal; Every Moment Holy; A Journal Through Lent; and a Lenten Playlist.
Here is what I have recently happily learned — the definition of Lent! I don’t remember ever knowing what the word Lent meant for whatever reason! Taken from Every Moment Holy, "the word 'Lent' comes from the Old English lencten, meaning 'spring, springtime,' and the West Germanic langitinaz, meaning “the lengthening of days.” 🤯 I had no idea! My conception of Lent was largely taken up with the idea of fasting or having to give something up. I naturally assumed “Lent” meant something akin to that idea. Esau McCauley, in Lent: The Season of Repentance and Renewal, helpfully points out that, indeed, lent is about giving something up. He writes that “Lent is inescapably about repenting. Repentance is a chance of direction, a Spirit-empowered turning around. Repentance is, then, the first step we make toward God. But to turn toward God, we must turn away from something else. That something else is our sins. Lent, then, is about turning away from our sins and toward the living God.” With the idea of springtime in its definition, though, Lent as a season of repentance is not an end in and of itself. Repentance leads to the Springtime of renewal! How do we know that Springtime is on its way? Lent is a 40-day journey to the reality of the resurrection that ensures not only pockets of renewal in this life but the coming renewal of the new heavens and new earth!
Esau again — We should not see the season of Lent as a series of rules but as a gift of the collected wisdom of the church universal. This year, I see this gift a little more clearly than in years past. Once again, this is no call to incorporate any holiday on the church calendar as a means for your salvation. Salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, as revealed by Scripture alone, to the glory of God alone. Amen! And yet, maybe this gift of the collected wisdom of the church universal could be a means of deepening the reality of the resurrection so that we might have renewals of the lengthening days of Spring in our hearts as we await for That Day to come.
Yearning for Spring with you,