Digging for Lent

I grew up in a non-denominational church where we never really talked about the Christian tradition of Lent. I never knew anything about it other than, “That’s when the Catholics walk around with an ash cross on the heads.” And as far as what had been implied to me about such things, it might as well have been a Hindu event, because Hindus put stuff on their foreheads too. (as the image above illustrates)

When I went to college, even though it was a charismatic Christian college, there were at least some there who had come from more liturgical traditions, like Lutheran, Methodist, Catholic, Presbyterian, or Episcopalian, but not many. And there were some theology majors who seemed to be trying out the latest tradition they learned about from their “liberal” profs. And I had a little side gig as a singer at a Methodist church, so I started hearing a bit more about Lent.

I learned that it is part of the Christian calendar, for starters. I really didn’t even know there was an official Christian calendar other than Christmastime and Easter. But that explained some of themes our pastor spoke on when it wasn’t Christmas or Easter but it seemed like some special event was going on that I must have missed the memo about. Since then, I’ve learned a bit more about such traditions, and even though I grew up solidly Christian, it seems each year I find out something else I really didn’t know about, like Maundy Thursday and such. Anyway, I just learned a little more about Lent and I’d like to share it.

My friend Julie (julieclawson.com), the gifted author of Everyday Justice (if you’re into social justice, environmentalism, or local food, you’ll love it), posted on her OneHandClapping blog a note that straightens out something about the Lent discipline of personal sacrifice. You should read the whole post, but here’s one thing that stuck out:

“…Lent isn’t about denial, it is about transformation. It is the season in which we prepare to encounter Christ’s sacrifice by endeavoring to become more Christ like ourselves.”

Now, I still find myself quite awkward around Lent season; maybe its allergies. But even as someone who no longer affirms all the tenets of Christianity, I still want to be more like Jesus or at least try to follow his teachings. And so I’m going to try taking Julie’s advice and keep my thoughts about Lent simple: Just try to embody the things Jesus taught. Things like love and peace and forgiveness. I don’t have to be a Christian to do that. So I think an agnostic can practice Lent, and so can an atheist, or a Buddhist or Hindu…and even a Christian. I may not walk around with ash on my head, but I can try to at least walk more than I talk.

3 Responses

  1. Are you trying to “embody what Jesus taught” by not accepting Him for who He is?

    A Hindu or a Buddhist could practice Lenten-like disciplines of self denial and benefit greatly…however Lenten-like disciplines are there for the Church to embrace transformation into Christ (which Christ? God from God, light from light , very God from very God, Begotten not made..of one being with the Father…etc.)…not transformation into decent people.

    Lent…or scipture…is full of this idea of change…transformation into Christ….the problem is that this requires death…..death to ourselves.

    “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me….”Galatians 2:20

    “My little children for whom I labor in birth again, until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4:19

    “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding in a mirror the glory of the Lord..are being transformed into His image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:18

    “But at my vindication, I shall see your face, when I awake , I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness. Ps. 17:16

    I know that these are scripture verses that….may or may not hold sway in your ponderings but they do point to a part of Christianity that you may or may not be familiar with which sees salvation as a “becoming” a “healing”, a “getting well” and less of a destination already achieved.

    Have you ever read any of the Eastern Church Fathers….ascetics…saints? In my life, reading the lives of the saints speaks louder than any form of apologetics. Men and women who allowed God to transform their lives in very desperate situations. These guys didn’t have middle class America on the mind nor was it there goal….their goal was Christ.

    read this blog…
    He has lots of good stuff on the lives of saints.
    Are you familiar with Fr. Seraphim Rose?

    Hope your digging in Great Lent leads you to Jesus. (Oh yeah, if your digging in a grave…..He ain’t there.)
    Light and Peace and Joy my brother,

  2. I agree – Lent isn’t just about being cranky because you give up chocolate.

    Lent is a journey! Lent is a practice. The practice of entering into Jesus’ story. In Lent we prepare ourselves for Easter by choosing something that will mature our spirituality and help us enter into that story. And that can mean many things.

    I’m taking a class about stories at night this semester. I think I’ll learn a lot.

  3. Wow! When I saw the title of your website I had to check it out. I toy with the agnostic pentecostal label too… though I’ve never actually put it that way. Then I read more about you and laughed my ass off. I never knew there were people out there like you…or so much like me…

    So…thank you for validating the beliefs I’ve always known to be true for me…I look forward to reading future posts…

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