Too late for lent?

My wife gets excited this time of year, every year. It’s the season of lent! For Sarah, that means that Wendy’s has their epic fish sandwich on the menu again! For someone who normally isn’t a fan of fast food, she will go out of the way for one of those fried morsels.
What is lent? Traditionally it’s a season of preparation of one’s heart and mind for the celebration of Easter, the time we dedicate to celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. It’s a period of fasting from something to refocus and renew our hearts on the work of the cross by reducing the distractions in our life.
Early church father Ireneaus of Lyons, who was born approximately 30 years after the Apostle John’s death, mentions a season of self-denial in the early church. During that time it was only 2-3 days rather than the 40 we see today. It was in the Nicene council in 325 AD that we see a recommendation to shift to a 40 day period.
Since then, things have changed quite a bit in The Church. Theological, cultural and pragmatic divisions have changed how and if lent is even observed anymore in modern churches.
One big question we get asked every year is whether or not we should or shouldn’t celebrate lent. Well, that’s a loaded question… I think it starts with the heart behind it. Are you participating simply because others are doing it or you’ve grown up doing it? If so, then you’ve ritualized something that’s intended to deepen your relationship with God and heighten your anticipation and celebration of Easter.
Whether it’s receiving communion, baptism, praying, or the celebration of various holy days, if done long enough with insincerity, any practice of the church can become simply a ritual. Jesus regularly spoke very strongly to the religious leaders who did their duty out of ritual and tradition instead of sincere worship and desire for God.
While there is nothing wrong with either participating in or abstaining from the celebration of lent, the err comes when our heart behind the decision isn’t genuine.
Let’s be honest, some of us could really benefit from letting go of something that distracts us from quality time with our creator. While others may have practiced lent with so much tradition that it’s true meaning has long been lost.
So if you still want to participate in lent but have been wondering if it’s too late to start, it’s not. You can start now or a few days before Easter. It’s about refocusing yourself through self denial, a fast from something, for a period of time in preparation to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, salvation from the sin in all of us.
-Pastor Mike