Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Lent: To Observe or not to Observe?

"The essential spirituality of worship remained the possession of the church until it was slowly lost with the passing of the years.  The natural legality of the fallen hearts of men began to introduce the old distinctions.  The church came to observe again days and seasons and times...differences were observed between one and another day or place or person...its deadliest effect is the complete cleavage it introduces between religion and life."
-A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine

I finished The Pursuit of God last night.  It was another super good book that I may put on an "annual read" list.  The last chapter contained the above quote, and as I was reading it I couldn't help but think of the upcoming church holiday of Lent.  Tozer seems to really disagree with the church's calendar and setting aside of certain days to be more "holy" than others.  He argues that all of life and what humans do is sacred and that we can treat it as such by offering our daily tasks as worship to God.  I wholeheartedly agree with him on that front.

However, that is not going to stop me from celebrating Lent.  I first started observing Lent while in college.  I started attending some evening liturgical services led by different religion professors and they held an Ash Wednesday service that spring.  It was my first experience with this holiday and became one of the most defining and memorable points in my spiritual journey.  It was incredibly humbling to stand before one of my professors, feel the ashes spread onto my forehead and hear him declare, "Remember, O man, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return" (Genesis 3:19).  Such a ritual, I believe, is a fitting start to Lent, a time when we are called to make a sacrifice in our life in order to remember Jesus' ultimate sacrifice on the cross.

That's why I do it-celebrate Lent.  I confess that as the holiday approaches, I always wrestle with the thoughts that Lent is something I "should" observe or that I am better than other Christians because I follow it.  Like Tozer says, all of life is sacred...but wouldn't it also be good to have the rhythm of a calendar to be able to celebrate it?  I appreciate the days set aside to give up something dear to me and have that remind me of the cross.  It makes the sacredness of life that much sweeter.

1 comment:

  1. I like your perspective. I agree with the choice to celebrate it, because Tozer is right, that all of life is sacred. However a structure within which to celebrate it as such makes doing so more accessible. I like to celebrate lent too, and this time of year I sometimes appreciate the more liturgical churches' approach to "holy days". Growing up we always ate only rice on Wednesdays throughout lent and had to give up something that was valuable to us. Among other benefits it set our sights on Resurrection Day, instead of it just creeping up on us like other holidays.
    The Ultimate Sacrifice - it's kind of mind boggling isn't it? Could we ever take too seriously or "over-celebrate" the Grace of our God?! I think not!
    Great thoughts Nicole, thanks for sharing.