Kids around Springfield, MO are thrilled. This is the THIRD snow day in a row, and remarkably for the Ozarks, these are the first “snow days” that have been used this school year. I relate to the joy of not having school for a few days, but if we go too many more we might be going into June like we had to when I first moved here eight years ago. Not fun.
We’re entering the Lenten season officially today. Ash Wednesday. And, actually the whole concept of Lent is designed to promote self-sacrifice and reflect upon our mortality (“from ashes you came and to ashes you shall return”). A lot of people decide to “give up something” for Lent. If you’re having trouble choosing, then here is a good article about suggestions coming in via Twitter.
Lent isn’t supposed to be fun. This 40 day period of reflection is supposed to get us thinking in the direction of Christ’s sacrificial death for us on the cross. Forty days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter Sunday for the purpose of recognizing what Christ has done for us.
I’m grateful our church is open to this aspect of spiritual formation. We haven’t done the ashes on the forehead practice, but we are mindful about this season of the Christian year. Of course, today with school being out, we’re not doing anything church related this evening. But, it’s still Ash Wednesday but with more of a snowy feel to it. We will change the color of our Sunday bulletins, and with the first Sunday of Lent coming up, our people can expect that difference to bring attention to the season.
I’m also hoping there will be other differences to note as well. I spend a lot of time promoting different aspects of church life. This part of the year in particular, we are gearing up for a budget approval process, Nominating Committee process, and scheduling a deacon election in the near future. These are important aspects of our church’s life and essential to keeping our church active and functional. Sometimes they are not fun. However, I am also mindful of the more significant aspects of life in a community of faith and aim to keep the mood of Lent before us as much as possible. That doesn’t mean I will be gloomy but it will mean that I will lead our people to consider our dependence on Christ and our unity as the people of God.
Lent isn’t necessarily geared to be fun. No one should want to live in a “Lenten mentality” all the time. I think that’s a good clue as to the meaning of the season. Our desire should be to live in the light of Easter Sunday, and until then, we will reflect upon what life would be like without the Resurrection hope.
I don’t know what you’ll be “giving up” for Lent, if anything. But, I hope that for each day of Lent, we can collectively embrace what sorrow and suffering mean and realize that there are people around us who experience this for far more than 40 days. Perhaps we can consider ways to alleviate their suffering. Perhaps too, the virtues of humility and penitence can emerge from our lives and give us a greater awareness of how much we truly have to be thankful for in this world.