There were certain traditions in my Mennonite Brethren upbringing; Lent wasn’t one of them.
So why Lent, and why now?
I’ve wrestled with this. Here’s my answer: my main motivation is birthed out of what I see as a lack of preparation and thoughtfulness connected to the Easter season.
Lent helps battle that tendency. Lent doesn’t just remind us of the cross; it prepares us for it.
Lent invites people to join Jesus on the way to the crucifixion. Fasts – one or many – assist in that process. Obviously, the joy of Good Friday comes because the tomb was empty Sunday; however, in the sacrament of communion we are called to remember Jesus’ death.
Lent doesn’t end at the cross. In fact, the Easter Week following Easter Sunday celebrates the resurrection and the coming of the promised Helper, the Holy Spirit.
Lent reminds us of Thursday night, Friday morning and the silence of Saturday. Lent reminds us of our call to pick up our cross daily. That’s one of the reasons I like the active way we take part in communion every Sunday at Westside. Standing and coming forward is a visual reminder that we are called to follow Jesus to the cross.
Why fast as part of the Lent season? It’s a call to seek God’s face and ask, What is that thing, that practice, that gift that divides my loyalty and keeps me from experiencing the cross-centred life? It’s a call of surrender.
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7).
My prayer is that this Lent season serves as a revealing time that stretches us individually and corporately, touching dead areas needing the life and joy only the cross of Jesus can bring.
—Norm Funk is founding pastor of Westside Church, Vancouver, which meets in The Centre in the city’s downtown. A version of this article first appeared on the church blog Feb 12, 2013.