March 2 marks the beginning of the Lenten season. Always beginning on what is called Ash Wednesday, you may see folks around town bearing a cross-shaped smudge on their foreheads. It means that a priest or pastor made the mark and reminded them that they came from dust and will return to dust. Five minutes of reminder, reminiscent of Psalm 90:12 which says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Advent and Lent are my two favorite times of the religious calendar. I like them because the commercial establishment cannot turn them into a national “holiday” like they have done with Christmas and Easter. I like them because they are both long enough to be able to get into a rhythm of meditation and worship. And I like them because of the way they focus the mind. They are ancient shepherds tending sheep in a remote pasture. They are Jesus, alone in a deserted area wrestling with hunger and Satan. Neither very glamorous, eliminating the attention of the distracted and worldly.
I especially like them because I am reassured that no clueless salesperson is going to chirp, “Happy Lent” to me as I check out of Raley’s or Lowes. No one celebrates slowing down, meditating, prayer, and self-discipline. These are direct opposites of the spirit of the age.
March 2, is the beginning of a nearly 2-month “fast.” The observation began as a way to join Jesus in his desert fast. Of course, none of us would attempt 40 days without food, however, there are other things from which we should fast. Things that distract and dull us like media, some relationships, often work, or complacency. Lent invites us to go into the desert with Jesus.
This post is an introduction to a daily Lenten meditation through the entire 40-days of Lent (actually more than 40 counting Sundays). I hope that you will join us as we think about the cost of following into the wilderness and also to the Cross. And please don’t choose chocolate for your fast.