Lent begins with a necessary reminder: you are dust and to dust you shall return.
In Ash Wednesday, we speak these difficult words so that we might resist the influential fictions that our daily lives impress upon us. The fiction that we are in control. That we can fix ourselves. That we were designed first and foremost to love and care for ourselves.
Jesus tells us that the Law and the Prophets can be distilled into these two commands: Love God and Love Your Neighbor. Throughout history, the story of humanity has been an insistent turning away from these invitations and toward ourselves. As we discuss in Giving Up, Augustine has a phrase for this: incurvatus in se. The Inward Curve.
What seems at first an awful loss—remember that you are dust—becomes a gift. Lent offers us the gift of our mortality. The gift of our limitation. We are invited to find the end of ourselves and, in so doing, to find the endlessness of Christ. Lent turns us inside-out for the sake of others.
As you and your church observe a Holy Lent, here are some resources to help you receive this gift.
LeaderWorks has been blessed with the chance to help facilitate a Lenten Resource from the Anglican Church in North America that highlights the Lenten discipline of almsgiving. While most Christians know Lent as a time of fasting and prayer, many miss its deep rootedness in habits of giving to the poor.
Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25 call us to observe a fast the liberates the oppressed, raises up the poor, and actively seeks to serve the most vulnerable among us. The Gift of Lent highlights the work of Matthew 25 Initiative as well as the Anglican Relief and Development Fund in living out this call. We encourage you to discover and give toward these worthy causes.
The website also hosts Daily Prayer from our good friend Rev. Michael Jarrett of the Trinity Mission, as well as daily reflections from leaders across the province who share stories of those in their midst who are living out God’s chosen fast. Every week, there will also be a special Art Spotlight, Lenten-themed artwork selected by Victoria Emily Jones of ArtandTheology.org.
Perhaps the Lenten journey toward Easter is well-worn path for you; perhaps this centuries-old tradition is brand new to you. Chances are, no matter how we are approaching this season, we could stand some orientation.
Resources abound, but I recommend Aaron Damiani’s The Good of Giving Up as a starting point. The Gift of Lent will offer a few short excerpts over the course of these forty days, but the book itself is a thoughtful, gracious, and (mercifully) clear introduction to the meaning and purpose of Lent. You can watch my interview with him here.
As for a Lenten fast, of course everyone should prayerfully consider for themselves what God has for them. But I will say this: if Lent invites us to strip ourselves of creature comforts, those things which nudge us toward the broken story of our self-obsession, we might consider intentionally limiting our use of technology. Your devices may have become your vices, and you may be surprised at the self-control it takes to resist their influence over you. For more on this and some resources that might push you along the path, check out this article.
And, as you lent invites you into a life of inside-out generosity, read Giving Up to learn how giving is at the very heart of the gospel.