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  • Writer's picturePage Brooks

Why We Need to Celebrate Lent

Updated: Aug 5, 2022

By Rev. Dr. Page Brooks

Senior Pastor, Canal Street Church: A Mosaic Community

Growing up Baptist I never knew of a church celebration entitled Lent. It was not that we necessarily taught against Lent, I just quite literally never heard of it mentioned in our church.

When I moved to New Orleans in 2000, I started hearing about this season of the church called Lent. Still, at the time, I only knew of it because Catholics would eat fish on Fridays during Lent. As I have grown in my understanding of liturgical practices, I have found that celebrating Lent is not just something to do, but I believe something that is absolutely necessary in our contemporary society. Allow me to share why.

The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of Christ’s passion and resurrection. Eventually it became a custom to prepare for a season of penitence and fasting. Though our modern understanding of Lent came along many centuries later, the season of Lent was a time when converts to the faith were prepared for baptism. It was also a time when those who had fallen away were reconciled to the fellowship of the local church. From these practices, the entire congregation was placed into a mindset of pardon and forgiveness as set forth in the Gospel of our Savior. It was a reminder to all Christians of the continual need for self-examination, repentance, and thanksgiving for the forgiveness of Christ.

What makes Lent so necessary in our contemporary time? We live in a day when the sinfulness of humanity is downplayed by the secular worldview. Two primary factors contribute to this worldview, among many others. First, moral relativism, which states that there are no absolute morals, denies a biblical understanding of sin. If there are no absolute morals or truths, then how can one say there is any type of absolute sin in a person? Second, secular humanism, which posits that humans can be good and ethical without religion or God, also denies the basic sinfulness of humanity. In fact, secular humanism believes that humans may eventually become so good so as to overcome the apparent problems and weaknesses of the world.

The Bible, on the other hand, speaks to our sinfulness and our absolute need for God’s help with regard to salvation. The season of Lent provides a time for Christians to reflect on our need for God. It allows us to focus upon who we truly are as humans (sinful beings), what Christ has done for us on the cross (saved persons), and what God is going to do in our lives (our future glorification). Though the world constantly bombards us with messages of our own goodness, Lent is a specific time of focus to remind us of our frailty and weakness.

Lent is not to be practiced alone. It is not a time of self-flagellation or depression through loneliness. It is a time when God’s people come together to celebrate forgiveness that God gives to individuals. It is a time that God’s people can exercise the grace of forgiveness between each other, and perhaps hope for the return of those who have fallen.

During the Lenten season, I recommend that believers pray and find the one thing in their lives upon which they depend the most that keeps them from depending upon Christ the most. It truly may be food, drink, approval of others, social media, or work. Commit to exercising a fast of whatever this “thing” is for the 40 days of Lent. Each time you feel the need to rely upon that “thing,” let it be a reminder to you of your absolute dependence upon the Lord. Every time, for example, you feel a hunger pain, let it be a reminder to you of your soul’s longing desire for God’s presence that can only be filled through Christ.

Lent provides a unique time each year when believers can practice the discipline of self-examination. We examine ourselves and our deepest needs according to God’s Word. It is also a time of anticipation as we look toward the promise and hope of Easter. We can practice the discipline of self-examination because we know the power of forgiveness and victory is ours through Jesus Christ.

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