Because of the lateness of Easter this year the end of our BE time together has dropped us off on the cusp of Lent. My calendar taunts me with the schedule I'm supposedly going to keep. There are extra Bible studies, evening gatherings and worship services all crammed into a six week period of reflection and contemplation (ha!). But there are some things I truly love about the season of Lent even if I don't get in as much reflection and contemplation as I would like.
What about you? What are some things you appreciate about the season of Lent? Perhaps you would share 5 of them with us. And for your bonus question feel free to share one thing you could do without.
I'm sitting in the Seattle airport and awaiting the last leg of my trip home. I'm trying to think about a sermon for Transfiguration, the layout of a children's service and the opening questions to start a Lenten series on prayer. A little Lenten reflection seems just the thing to get some of the Spirit connection flowing.
In Lent, I appreciate:
1. Songs in a minor key. I'm a first soprano, so there's very little that's beyond the range of my voice in the high-pitched Easter/Christmas hymnody, but Lent lets me put aside my Jessye Norman and channel my inner Mahalia Jackson. Nothing thrills me like the rolling of "Come Ye Disconsolate" or the gentle slant of "Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross". I wish we sang some of these more often because their message of consolation is gracious and true, but we tend to look for things to be a little more upbeat during the rest of the church year. (And how can a hymn become a classic unless we sing it?) (And, for the record, I'm only Jessye or Mahalia in my head.)
2. The absence of Hallelujahs. The fasting makes me look forward to the feast at the resurrection celebration. It's worth considering how often we say "hallelujah" and what it really means.
3. The focus on the body. Too frequently, our spiritual practice doesn't line up with our physical selves. However, in Lent, a time of fasting, coming together more frequently, ashes, death and anticipation of life to come- we cannot escape (I think) the connection between the mutual salvation of our bodies AND our souls. God created, loves and saves both. We may not understand the resurrection of the body, but our hope for it reminds us that God does not despise our physical selves.
4. The appearance of fish sandwiches. I wouldn't eat a fast food fish sandwich if you paid me, but I love when they suddenly appear on the advertising boards. I assume they're there because someone somewhere remembers the idea of "fish fridays". It makes me remember that a holiday (in this case, Easter) can become very secular, but the religious aspects sneak in around the edges. I also like surprises about people who observe or remember Lent. One Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), I mentioned to my Starbucks baristo that I was giving up my drink for Lent. He said, "See you at Easter!" :)
5. The chance to do something different in worship. I learned that if you want to try to introduce something new, give it a whirl during Advent or Lent. You'll get a feel for reactions and then be able to make a decision at the end of the season. One year, I moved the baptismal font toward the door of the church, symbolizing entrance to the community, for the season of Lent. On Easter Sunday, I received no less than 5 requests that it remain there. And so it does, 2 years later.
I could do without pretending that Easter hasn't happened. Even in Lent, we remain Easter people, people living in the post-resurrection light and hope. I don't like to pretend like that hasn't occurred. I like to use the phrase, "As we await the Easter celebration..."