With the arrival of “Ash Wednesday” this past week, the season of Lent has begun. Every year at the beginning of Lent I struggle for an appropriate greeting. My default is “Happy Lent.” But that greeting is mostly returned with awkward looks and suppressed giggles—sort of the same reaction I get from some folks when I show up at church wearing that pointy hat bishops wear. Perhaps if I added something more Lenten to the greeting it would work better: “Happy Lent you brood of vipers” or “Merry Lent you wretched sinner.”
Still doesn’t work, does it?
The Ash Wednesday service sets the tone for the season of Lent—defines it, really. In the invitation to the observance of Lent, the words describe Lent as a season of penitence and fasting. But, where that is often as far as we go when thinking about Lent, the invitation goes on to state that Lent provides a time for individuals to prepare for Holy Baptism (or renewal of Baptism), and a time for reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration. Lent is a time for us to “put in mind [the] message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and [the] need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith.”
Lent is a season of renewal, reconciliation, forgiveness, faith, and the promise of restoration in Christ. Good News (dare I say ‘happy’ news)!
May this Lent be holy. May all that you do in your fasting and disciplines be for the work and goal of renewal, reconciliation, forgiveness, and restoration. I am convinced that wretchedness and suffering for their own sake is not what God requires. Instead, may the hope of the Good News of God’s mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation in Christ Jesus inspire the season. What work of reconciliation and renewal do you have to do this season?