God’s Church has always observed a period of fasting and prayer in preparation for the celebration of Christ’s Resurrection at Easter. Christian writings from the early third century refer to the mandatory, though not uniform, participation in these spiritual disciplines and place the origins of the practice back to “our forefathers.” Eusebius and others refer to Lent in their fourth century writings. The church councils of that age point to Lent as being established by the Apostles.
The practice of Lent itself cannot be found in the Bible, although Holy Scripture does command and assume regular times of fasting and prayer. So, I can honestly affirm Lent as a noble and faithful and Christian thing to do. Absolutely. No doubt. Some of you reading this blog annually observe Lent. You give up a bad habit, put away a certain vice, abstain from a particular pleasure in order to bring your mind and body into a fuller communion with our Lord.
Praise God! That’s fantastic!
But if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter is the time to take things up.
If Calvary means putting to death things in your life that need killing off so you can flourish as a Christian and as a God-created human being in his image, then Easter should mean planting and watering and training up new things in your life so you can grow in your sacred relationships with God and man. Yes, you have to weed the garden from time to time. We all do. Sometimes that ground cover or those stumps need some serious digging to be eliminated. That’s Lent. But you don’t want to just turn your garden into a neat little bed of blank dirt. Easter is the time to sow new seeds and plant a few bulbs. Resurrection Day is the time to start something new, something that will blossom and fill your world with color and perfume and righteous fruit.
As we celebrate Easter together this Sunday, why don’t you take up something new? Tackle a new task. Enter into a new venture. Start something, commit to something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may only be able to do it for 40-days, just like you may only be able to give up Dr Pepper and Little Debbies for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new potentials you never dreamed of.
It might help you wake up in a whole new way. And that’s what Easter is all about.