In the last few weeks during visits with a couple of different people, I was twice asked why I don’t put much, if any, emphasis upon the season of Lent with the culmination of Easter. That’s a very good question. And there are multiple reasons why.
First, growing up, I did not grow up in a liturgical faith community. The faith community of my youth just was not liturgical in nature so there was no emphasis on seasons like Lent. So, due to those nurturing years, I was not predisposed to observing those types of seasons. I don’t really even recall an emphasis on the season of Advent. I don’t recall there ever being an Advent wreath in the sanctuary of the building where the church of my youth gathered. This reality was most likely due to a reaction against what was deemed as pious, ritualistic acts and observances by certain parts of the faith family, acts and observances which, I was taught, were just observed because of human-made tradition.
Now, I will not judge whether or not a person is sincere in his/her observance of seasons such as Advent or Lent (which are human creations), but I have experienced people that, through his/her actions during these times, have squarely placed the focus on themselves by announcing what s/he is giving up for Lent. And, in my own mind, I have not been able to reconcile how giving up something (sacrificing), such as chocolate or caffeine, during Lent will somehow cause me to understand what Jesus experienced in those last hours which culminated in his being executed in one of the most painful ways ever created by humanity. In my own mind, the Sun and the Earth are closer than this comparison.
There is a passage in Romans to which I hold that has directed my approach. “One judges one day above another; another judges every day alike. Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind.” Also, in his letter to the Galatian believers, Paul is concerned that they have once again begun observing different feasts, holy days, and seasons in order to somehow prove their redemption,
I will not judge another’s approach as Paul says in Romans 14; therefore, I expect the same from other believers toward me. There are two reasons why I do not place one day or season above another. First off, I view every day as created by God. In verse 24 of the 118th Psalm, it says, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Everyday (and, yes, Mondays are included!) has been created by God and, the last time I checked, God doesn’t create junk. Every day, in my mind, is an equal gift of God in which I can experience Him fully. That makes me rejoice.
The second reason is this: I celebrate what God has done through Jesus birth, life and resurrection every day! I am whom I am today because of the victory Jesus won. And that I celebrate every day. For me, it is not necessary to have a special day or a season in order to celebrate this. For me, because of the new life I have from and in God and because of the fact that through Jesus I have been given the right to be called a child of God, I celebrate Christmas and Easter every day!
Because of this, I just don’t place much emphasis upon these different seasons. This comes out in my approach to ministry and leading a congregation. And it is true that a congregation takes on the personality of her pastor.
I will not judge your level of spiritual maturity by your need or desire to observe certain days or seasons; I ask that you not judge my spiritual maturity by my approach to them.
But I will ask you to do one thing and it is this; ask yourself this question, “Why am I observing ________?” The answer should give you direction in your approach as you examine why you are doing it. Is it because of a genuine connection with the Spirit or is it because it is expected? Is it just a outward show for others to see or is it an internal response to God?
I know there are those who genuinely and sincerely observe these days and seasons and for whom they are quite significant. For that I rejoice. Unfortunately, I also know of people for whom it is just another observance that somehow is suppose to prove them spiritual, but in reality, it is just a tradition and they only do it because it is expected, but it really means nothing. In this case, I am saddened.
May you celebrate your connection with God the Father through a relationship with Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit every day of your life in and with Him.