Having been raised in a non-liturgical Baptist church, the liturgical worship calendar, with its seasons and emphases, was not only unobserved but also unknown.
I remember learning about Hanukkah at some point in my upbringing, but I cannot recall hearing about, much less participating in, seasons of the Christian church’s worship life other than Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter.
In the years before college, these were the only significant Sundays I celebrated (other than cultural holidays, such as Mother’s and Father’s Day).
In my undergraduate years, I encountered Christians from other traditions and began to hear about and learn about other “holy days” of the church’s life of worship. Advent and Lent joined my ecclesial vocabulary in these years, but nothing more.
In seminary, I learned more about the church’s life of worship and added other holy days to my vocabulary list. I also received my first copy of the liturgical calendar wheel and participated in my first Ash Wednesday service.
In pastoral ministry, I arrived at churches already emphasizing and observing the worship calendar. My liturgical vocabulary expanded once more, and a deep, profound appreciation for the liturgical worship calendar began to grow as I researched, wrote and taught about, participated in and led services on various holy days.
I share my journey as we prepare for this Lenten season in hope that it might resonate with your journey.
I share my story because you might still be a Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter celebrant who asks at Advent and Lent each year, “what’s all the fuss about?”
Let me be clear. Nothing is wrong in celebrating only Christmas, Palm Sunday and Easter.
But something is lost – namely, a rich and rewarding worship journey that helps one reflect upon, find meaning in and discover new ways to apply and live out the story of Jesus, the Christ.
If Lent is foreign to you, I encourage you to familiarize yourself with this holy season.
If Ash Wednesday’s imposition of ashes seems strange to you, I invite you to set aside misgivings and give it a chance.
If fasting and feeling bad about your shortcomings is your understanding of Lent, I implore you to set aside your presuppositions and recognize that Lent is a more significant and life-giving observance.
The Lenten season is about taking time to reflect upon our lives and to repent of whatever does not align with Jesus’ vision of life under the reign of God. It is about healing and hallowing life, not denigrating and denying it.
If this is the goal and purpose of your Lenten observance, then however you choose to journey through the season will result in an appropriate, helpful and formative experience.
If you are still unsure about, or uncertain of, how to participate in Lent, I would encourage you to consider using an eight-week study, “Eyeing Easter, Walking through Lent,” produced by EthicsDaily.com in partnership with the Baptist World Alliance.
For readers learning about Lent, a brief introduction provides information about the origin and purpose of the Lenten season.
For readers familiar with Lent, a variety of perspectives regarding Lenten celebrations provides an expanded understanding of this holy season.
For all readers, weekly reflections from goodwill Baptists across the world provide opportunities to reflect upon, and find practical ways to imitate, the life and teaching of Jesus.
If Lent is unfamiliar, I hope you’ll consider entering into the Lenten journey of worship. If Lent is familiar, I hope you find this year’s journey meaningful and fruitful.
Whatever your case may be, I hope you’ll consider using “Eyeing Easter, Walking through Lent” to guide you in your journey toward the hopeful light of resurrection.
Zach Dawes is the managing editor for EthicsDaily.com.