Recently, I came across the website for InterVarsity, a faith-based group whose mission is to “reach every corner of every campus.” For 75 years, they have been “on hundreds of college campuses, courageously proclaiming Jesus as Lord and Savior, engaging in discipleship around Scripture, and loving people of every ethnicity and culture.”

Hilary Davis, who was a part-time staff member with InterVarsity’s Native Ministries and a student at Gordon-Conwell Seminary in 2016, wrote a provocative article for the website titled “10 Reasons Why Lent Is the Best Time of the Year.” Davis writes that she did not observe Lent in the Protestant faith she grew up in; however, as an adult, she loves Lent. I am the same way!

Davis’ first reason she loves Lent made me laugh! She writes “I love that Hallmark just cannot find a way to make money off of Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, or even Good Friday.”

I understand Davis’ sentiment on commercialization; but, I love cards, letters and sending mail. Suddenly, I found myself wanting Lenten cards! In 2020, Hallmark has ecards where you can type in an Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday or Good Friday message. And, much to my delight, companies now have specific cards for these three Lenten days!

The 40 days of Lent, not counting Sundays, call us to remember the 40 days Jesus spends in the wilderness facing hunger and the devil before Jesus begins his ministry. Jesus also spends 40 days on earth before ascending to heaven after his resurrection.

Davis’ Lenten list mentions some of the significant 40 day periods in the Old Testament, including 40 days of rain on Noah’s ark; 40 days on a mountain when Moses receives the Law of God; 40 days of spies searching for the Promised Land and bringing back fruit as a sign from God; 40 days of Elijah listening for the still small whispering voice of a God who roars; and, 40 days of Jonah, the runaway prophet, moping under a vine while God’s people repent. We have lots of examples of what people in the Bible do for 40 days.

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 26, we enter a period of 40 days dedicated to Jesus serving as the bedrock of our spiritual life. We join millions of people the world over on this journey.

We wear ashes on our foreheads to remind us we are made of dust and will return to dust yet live eternally. We give thanks that Jesus lived here on earth and accepts our humanity, good and bad, with grace and love. We consider Christ’s suffering on the cross as we pray for the suffering throughout the universe.

Lent slows us down so we can be more fully in relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Lent challenges us to give up or take on something to strengthen our faith. Lent renews our spiritual life so we may go forth sharing the Good News with one another. Amen.

— Judy Holmes is an elder and lay pastor at First Presbyterian Church of Litchfield.

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