I have a love-hate relationship with Lent.
For the unaware, the season of Lent begins forty days before Easter. Like the holy days of Christmas and Easter, Lent was a later invention of the Church. The season recalls Jesus being led by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days after his baptism. There he fasted and was tempted by the devil. The Lenten season even suggests the forty years that the Israelites wandered in the desert. There God prepared and shaped them for life in his promised land. Lent is a time for repentance, prayer and fasting as we anticipate the glory of Jesus' resurrection.
As Christians, we rely only on the grace found in Jesus Christ. Even though we are undeserving, God continues to love us. Only through God's actions in Jesus, am I reconciled to God. That belief makes me cast a suspicious eye on Lent. Are we trying through our own piety to manipulate God to love us more? If so, it is a foolhardy attempt.
In 1522, a group of Christians in Zurich heady with the profound knowledge of God's grace ate sausages during Lent. The simple defiant act of eating meat during the prescribed fast threw the city into an uproar. The Reformation came to Zurich, and the disciplines of Lent demanded by the Church were rejected.
Christians like grace. As a small child, I asked my parents, "How do I know that I've done enough to get into heaven?" The answer is that God's love and mercy is sufficient for you and me. However, many Christians who embrace God's grace have forgotten about its high cost. Grace doesn't cost us anything, but God paid a heavy price. Jesus, our Emmanuel, suffered and died on a cross bearing the sins of the world. This costly grace calls us to faithfulness. We live lives of prayer, worship, sacrifice, and service. We delve into the Scriptures to understand better our Lord. We forgive, love and show mercy because of the grace that we have received.
No season is better than another. Still if we decide to spend Lent reflecting on the incredible cost of God's grace and our response, it will be time well-spent. If the disciplines of Lent are less about us and more about God, the time can be redeemed. As we enjoy our sausages, let us also be shaped for the life God intends.