I was in Junior High before I became aware of Lent. It was probably not for want of Sunday School as I was a preacher’s kid (PK) and didn’t have a lot of choice. It had more to do with Lent being something “those Catholics” did, like eating fish on Fridays. Lent was not a big deal in the United Church, or the protestant churches for that matter. It was part of how we knew, in those pre-ecumenical days, that we weren’t like “them” (I won’t remind you of the more pejorative terms that were used way too often). Since the Roman Catholic Vatican II Council in the early 60’s attitudes and practices have changed. Many mainline protestant churches, including the United Church, get along pretty well with the Catholic church and they with us. Along the way the United Church has become more liturgical and some practices, like observing Lent, have become part of who we are.
Becoming more aware of Lent as I grew up I tried “giving up” a favorite thing for the 40 days prior to Easter. I knew it had something to do with Jesus being tempted in the wilderness, and that it was about getting ready for Easter, but not much else. My “practice” was more futile than successful as my Lenten resolve was about as determined as my New Year’s resolve and usually faded away before the first week ended. It certainly didn’t make me feel more like Jesus in the wilderness or gain much appreciation for suffering or sacrifice, especially of the voluntary kind.
As my spiritual growth continued I religiously bought the yearly devotional Lent booklets and was a bit more successful in reading a number of the reflections in them. Still, my rebellious spirit has a tough time with things I tell myself I “should” do. What works better for me is to avoid the “should-ness” of spiritual practices and make a conscious choice to do or not do something. Like choosing to confess some of my struggles, such as I have done here.
On a more interesting note, a few years ago I discovered “Lent Madness” which has made the season educational and fun to boot. Lent Madness was developed by two Episcopal priests who were inspired by basketball’s March Madness playoffs. Five years ago they decided to have a saintly competition each year where each day two saints (not all official or ancient) are pitted against each other. Short biographies are pitched by volunteer writers, posted on the internet and people are invited to read them and vote for their favorite. The favorite is be entered into a bracket and eventually set against another saint until all but one are eliminated with the “winner” receiving the highly coveted “Golden Halo” in time for Easter!
Lent Madness is a great way to become acquainted with some very fine and, more than occasionally, some very quirky people. I could say more but it would be better for you to check it out for yourself at www.lentmadness.org (they even have merchandise) or follow their Facebook page.
I guess I am inviting you to give up some ignorance (not an insult, we all have it) and choose to take up a seriously fun practice for Lent.
Have a blessed 40 days!