Read Luke 11:37-44
Lent, itself, can be a practice that when done poorly perpetuates self-righteousness. One of my professors, Roger Olson, recently wrote of the trend of more and more Baptists celebrating Lent. He doesn't view Lent as an evil, but rather, something that's not necessary for the life of faith. As one of those Baptists he talks about, I appreciate his article. First, I appreciate it because I firmly believe that wisdom is often found in a dissenting voice especially when that dissent is about popular trends (This keeps me squarely in the Baptist tradition!). Second, I appreciate the warning that whether we observe Lent or not, the issue of our spiritual vitality cannot be reduced to our religious practices even if it involves them. Observing Lent or not observing Lent, just like the washing of hands or not washing hands, isn't what matters. Rather, Jesus says, what's required is obedience to all of God's ways, a complete surrendering of our lives to him. When we reduce our faith to either keeping or not keeping a certain ritual, we run the risk of thinking that by keeping our small list of rules, we have arrived at God's will for our lives.
Truth be told, I’ve had a lot of trouble keeping up with my Lenten commitments. And at least for the moment, I’m glad I’m not good at it. You see, I’ve been a Baptist for a long time. I’m pretty good at being a Baptist. I know all the ins and outs of keeping the outside of my Baptist cup pretty clean, as I’m sure you know how to keep the outside of your Methodist or Episcopalian or Catholic cup pretty clean as well. But I’m not so good at Lent. I’ve already messed up plenty this year. You'll notice I have not blogged like I said I would. Remarkably, like I said, I’ve found that failure to be a gift – a reminder that I too am a sinner in need of grace, a work in progress, a person who though not perfect, is still being made perfect by the One who already is.