Happy Va-LENT-ine’s Day
By Beth Demme
Happy February 14th! It’s Valentine’s Day, but this year it also happens to be Ash Wednesday, aka the beginning of Lent. So this year we are celebrating Va-LENT-ine’s Day!
Maybe you’ve been in and around church your whole life and you know all about Lent. Perhaps your Lenten practices are simply another cog in the well-oiled machinery that IS your Spiritual Life. Or, maybe you’re new to the idea and you are curious about why people are burning palms, walking around with dirty foreheads, and talking very piously about sacrificing chocolate. Hopefully you didn’t lavish your Valentine with “The World’s Biggest Chocolate Heart” only to discover that said Valentine is on a chocolate fast from now thru April 1. (Side note: I am not giving up chocolate. Feel free to re-direct all Valentine’s chocolate to me.)
No matter how well-oiled your Spiritual Life is, or isn’t, sometimes it’s a good idea to revisit the basics of something that happens over and over again, like Lent.
Lent is the 40-day period before Easter. Since Easter moves around on the calendar, Lent moves around, too. We begin Lent by having our foreheads marked with ash in the shape of a cross (hence, Ash Wednesday). Traditionally, the ashes are made from last year’s Palm Sunday palms, but it’s also easy to buy the ashes. This year, I ordered some from Amazon.
Ashes have been a sign of mortality and repentance since pre-Christian times. In Genesis 18:27, Abraham humbly described himself as “dust and ashes.” In Esther, when Mordecai learned there was a plan to destroy all the Jews, he “tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes.” (Esther 4:1)
We begin Lent with Ash Wednesday church services to recognize, as a community, that we are mortal (i.e., not God) and that we need to repent (meaning, admit and apologize) for the ways we have failed to honor the God who loves us. We then spend Lent, both individually and as a community, preparing for Easter.
We call Lent a forty-day period, but one look at the calendar reveals that Lent is actually forty-six days long. It’s not that it takes us forty (or forty-six) days to stuff plastic eggs or boil real ones, it’s that we know we need this time for self-examination and reflection. We use this time to focus on simple living, prayer, and fasting for the purpose of growing closer to God.
Lent is a time to seriously consider what separates us from God, and to ask God to help us remove those obstacles.
The rhythm of life easily pulls us away from time with God if we let it. We let the tasks associated with family, work, friends, church, etc. fill up nearly every waking moment. Then we fill what’s left with Netflix and cell phone games.
Lent is a time to pause and reflect on how we can better invest in our relationship with God.
If you aren’t sure how you want to make the days from now until Easter different, these websites might help:
- Top Ten Things You Can Try For the Lenten Season
- Pray As You Go Audio Recordings specially designed for Lent
- 40 Days of Lent: Find Your Own Spiritual Path
- Start By Asking How Will I Give, Pray Forgive, etc.
Or commit to reading and studying the Bible for 15 minutes every day. You can use these resources:
- Daily Bible Readings from the Revised Common Lectionary
- My Bible 100 Lenten Edition videos where I take you through the entire Bible in a few minutes every day, for 40 days.
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