By Bishop Peggy A. Johnson
It is difficult to believe that the Season of Lent is upon us once again. It seems like it was just Christmas. I continue to receive delayed Christmas cards every day; so it still feels like the holiday season.
But here we are in the Season of Lent 2021. It includes the 40 days, excluding Sundays, between Ash Wednesday and Easter. During this time, we mediate about the life of Jesus and consider how our lives can be more in line with his character and holiness. It is a time of penitence and improvement: what we need to stop doing and start doing for the better.
The season of Lent is not explicitly mentioned in the Bible. It is a part of church tradition in which these 40 days were set aside to prepare new converts for baptism and church membership. There are many times in Scripture when great preparation has been done for 40 days—such as Moses on the mountain, Elijah in the cave, Jesus in the wilderness.
The word Lent comes from a German word, “lango” which means “long.” It references the “lengthening of the days that are characteristic of the season of spring.” The days continue to get longer. Sunset is no longer at dinnertime, and sunrise happens before I get to the office nowadays.
In that spirit of “long,” let’s observe a “Long Lent” this year. What are some of the ways we might do that?
Long-suffering – This word comes from two Greek words that literally denote having a “long-temper.” That means self-restraint when one is stirred to anger, and not giving into the temptation to retaliate. More than that, long-suffering calls us to be long in mercy (II Peter 3:9) and love. No matter the circumstances, it means having patience with those who are difficult or suffering long ordeals for the sake of the Kin-dom. Lent is a good time to examine how we respond to challenges.
Long view – Lent is also a time to have a long view of the future of God’s kin-dom. I love the hymn “For All the Saints.” (Book of Hymns, 711) The fifth verse speaks to this: “And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia.”
We need to step back sometimes and remember that God has a plan for the future with hope. Good will triumph over evil, love will cast out hate, and life will conquer death. During the season of Lent, look for the long view of the good that is to come by noticing what is good before you now. Isaiah 41 reminds us, “O Zion, that brings good tidings, get up on the high mountains.” I say the same to you: get up on the high mountain and see God’s view of eternal things and be encouraged.
Long for God – Psalm 42:1 declares, “As a deer longs for flowing streams, so longs my soul for thee, O God.” This kind of “longing” has to do with deep, almost desperate desire. Another translation of the word is “pant” or “thirst.” Longing for God is an important aspect of our Lenten journey. Taking time for prayer, study, meditation in an attitude of “thirsting” for God’s Spirit is the key. Jeremiah 29:13 reminds us “when you seek God, you will find God, when you seek God with all your heart.” Spiritual resources give you the life-giving water of strength for longsuffering and long-view thinking.
May you observe a long and holy Lent.