The value of Lent is universal

Published 6:00 am Friday, March 19, 2021

If you are not all that familiar with Lent, it is the intentional time leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. As you might imagine, it tends to focus on the frailty of life, the reality of suffering and our sharing in Jesus’ path to the cross. That is why people have tended to give up things for Lent, making life a little tougher and marking this time as different from the usual. It is not a happy time but a meaningful time because it can reflect the reality of our lives.

People love a good story. Of course, it would not surprise you to learn that we in the church believe we have the very best story – the love story, so to speak, between God and God’s creation with human beings at the center. We have specific holidays commemorating the highlights of that story (Christmas and Resurrection Sunday/Easter), but there is more to the story than just those particular days. There are the days around those days, days leading up to those days and days of reflection and appreciation after those days. The story is worth inhabiting and appreciating for more than just those individual holy days.

Biblical figures (including Jesus) spent time alone in the wilderness, especially that 40-day stretch. We also need periods of time to dwell with God more than just one day here and one day there. This brings us to the season of Lent that in many ways is supposed to reflect that time in the wilderness.

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I was just speaking this morning to someone who was raised in a church that never acknowledged this season. It was alien to me, as well, when I was growing up in church. It was a Roman Catholic thing, and we were not Roman Catholic, but the interesting thing about the word Catholic is that it means “universal.” Today, we are seeing more and more how the life and faith of one tradition might apply to more and more of us, even to all of us. Yes, I propose that the depth of Lent, the value of Lent, is universal. In this respect, we are not all Roman Catholic, but we can be catholic as Jesus speaks to us all through his life, his story.

The last year has felt like one giant season of Lent. We have all been forced to live differently and give up things. We have all had to deal with loss and contemplate the frailty of humanity in the face of the pandemic. Maybe God wants us to see something profound and universal through all of this that some of us encounter the weeks leading up to the cross. Maybe we are all supposed to find room for compassion in suffering, help in our loss and hope for new life, even in the darkness. We are living in the story of God’s love right now whether we realize it or not. You are welcome to join me in Lent and find God’s story working itself out in all of our lives.

You know how this story ends – God’s victorious love.

REV. DR. PETER SMITH is the transitional pastor for Farmville Presbyterian Church. He can be reached at