Today begins Lent, the season of preparation for Easter. Lent is a time of fasting, known even to many who don’t observe it for the things that people give up. I believe that giving something up is important, but that giving something positive is even more important. What’s the good of giving up whatever it is if we can’t give God the broken heart and contrite spirit that constitutes a true sacrifice? Joel reminds us to rend our hearts, not our clothes during this time, and I think he’s right: Lent should send us inward, calling us to prepare our hearts to receive the risen Jesus, who forgives our sins and redeems us from the grave.
The traditions of Mardi Gras and Carnevale can make Lent seem like a dour time by comparison, but I believe that Lent should be lived with Easter always in mind. When we look toward the empty tomb in faith, we awaken to the tension between the world as it is and the redeemed world to come—and between ourselves as we are, and the best selves we feel God calling us to be. In our Lenten repentance we lean our souls toward God’s righteousness, knowing that now is the acceptable time, that now is the day of salvation!
The Doctrine and Covenants reminds us that fasting should be rejoicing: just as God made sweet the uncooked food the family of Lehi ate during their time in the wilderness, so too can God make our penitent Lenten humility into a spiritual delight. As Jesus said, we aren’t fasting properly if we make long faces in public; rather, we let the Spirit transform our inner humility into an outward joy, enriched already by our treasure in heaven. Let us therefore rejoice together in our fasting, as the wind blowing from the new creation of Easter scents in our nostrils, all at once afar off and near at hand.
The Collect: Most blessed God, who gives us hope through the resurrection of your Son, Jesus Christ: pour your Spirit upon our Lenten fast, that as our repentant hearts groan for you, there may distill upon us the life of a new creation, so that we might all rejoice together in the salvation of our God, having become at last one people as you are one God, world without end. Amen.
For the music, here is “The Road Home,” by Stephen Paulus, with text by Michael Dennis Browne.
Tell me where is the road I can call my own,
That I left, that I lost, so long ago.
All these years I have wondered, oh when will I know,
There’s a way, there’s a road that will lead me home.
After wind, After rain, when the dark is done,
As I wake from a dream, in the gold of day,
Through the air there’s a calling from far away,
There’s a voice I can hear that will lead me home.
Rise up, follow me, come away is the call
With (the) love in your heart as the only song
There is no such beauty as where you belong
Rise up, follow me, I will lead you home.