I used to have an iconoclast view of Lent. I guess I still do. But, I now understand the value and intention of this season. I also understand the iconoclast view and intention. At the same time, I found it a bit hypocritical that so many embrace Advent but not Lent. Over the years I have heard this statement, "We're Protestants; we don't do Lent."
For those who grew up in a more traditional church environment, you may have some different perspectives on the Church calendar. However, I grew up in South America, and the highlight of the Lenten season was Carnival (Mardi Gras – the French name of the same thing). Now, I know that this precedes Lent but isn't actually Lent – but then I thought it was all one event. We would fill water balloons and the whole city would erupt in a giant water-balloon war. As a teenage boy, I couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t “do Lent!”
As the 40 days went by, I didn’t think much more of the matter as basketball season came to a close and baseball began to ramp up. Palm Sunday always caught me by surprise as the Passion Week events unfolded. I once watched a man allow himself be crucified as a “demonstration of his remorse.” I was shocked at such displays and pretty much discarded the whole concept of Lent.
As I grew up, I had to leave behind the childish things and begin to ask the questions about Lent, Ash Wednesday, Carnival, Fat Tuesday, Passion Week, Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Ascension Sunday, and Pentecost. All I really knew about were Palm Sunday, Good Friday and the Resurrection – as well as the historical events of Passion Week. I was forced to ask questions and differentiate between my experiences and the meaning of these Christian Holy Days. Was there more to these days that I was not aware of?
I believe ritual as a source of remembrance and worship is of great value. Ritual as an attempt to somehow please God or gain His favor is pointless, idolatrous, and arrogant. Such religious extravagance is what drives many to say, “I tried the church, it meant nothing to me.” Or, “I’m a Protestant, I don’t do that.” Both experienced the ritual without the meaning or saw great abuses of the rituals.
We at HarvestDowntown want to be mindful of the season and act accordingly. For this reason we read the appropriate Gospel Reading and Prayer (Collect) for each Sunday based upon the Church Calendar. We also use the Lenten season to bring attention to our Perspectives on the Passion. The goal is to give artists the opportunity to interact with Scripture throughout Lent and the art show is just their opportunity to reveal their perspective of the Scripture that was assigned to them. Our desire is that this season will be a time of reflection, worship and a sacrifice of art before God.
Lent is intended to be a season of sacrifice and preparation for Holy Week (Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday). We are to leave behind the childish things of Carnival and begin 40 days of repentance (Not Penance!). Some fast, some draw, some do both, and some celebrate their life in Christ. All are valuable so long as they are done with an attitude of worship. So, whether you eat or drink during Lent, whatever you do or don’t do; do it all for the glory and honor of God.