February 26th, 2020
Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.
Upper St. Croix Parish UMC
“Why Do We Have the Lent for 40 Days?
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins from today, Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, April 11th. The word Lent is from the Anglo-Saxon word, “lencten,” which means “spring.” Namely, Lent is the season of preparing renewal and of celebrating Easter.
Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. So, usually, the church performs the baptism on Easter after preparing with repentance during the Lenten season.
The first Sunday of Lent describes Jesus’ temptation by Satan; and the Sixth Sunday (Passion/ Palm Sunday), Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and his subsequent passion and death. Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the resurrection.
There are the Great Three Days- Maundy Thursday (Holy Thursday), Good Friday, and Easter Day. These three days are the climax of Lent and a bridge into the Easter Season. These days proclaim the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ’s passion, death, and resurrection. For these three days, the community may journey with Jesus from the upper room, in which is the last supper, to the Cross, to the tomb, and the garden of resurrection.
So, you may wonder why we have 40days for Lent. In the scripture, number 40 is very meaningful, which is a period of testing, or trial. It relates to the 40days Noah spent in the Ark during the great flood, the 40 years Israel spent seeking the Promised Land after the exodus from Egypt, and to the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness after his baptism. Therefore, the 40days of Lent symbolizes an invitation to 40 days of renewal and to 40 days of preparing ourselves to receive the Good News of Easter.
Overall, Lent is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper. When Good Friday and Easter eventually comes, it is not just another day at church, but we may feel that an opportunity to receive the overflowing of graces God offers. The use of ashes is a sign of mortality and repentance. The imposition of ashes can be a powerful nonverbal and experiential way of participating in the call to repentance and reconciliation.
So, I encourage you, during the Lenten season, set a time and set a place for your contemplation, meditation, devotion, or prayer about what our Lord did for us on the Cross and what we want to God in our life. Let us pass through 40days of Lent well having an opportunity to receive God’s grace more. The Cross is where our faith stands. Christ’s sacrifice and his subsequent resurrection are the real core of the Christian faith. Without the Cross, there would be no salvation, without the resurrection, no hope. That is why Good Friday and the following Easter Sunday are the most important dates to Christians, even more than Christmas. Please remember how much God loves us. And, what Jesus our Lord did for us. Please remember, the gospel of John says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Thanks be to God. Amen.