Lent is the season of the church year that follows the Epiphany Season. It is a time we set aside each year to remember the love of God that is poured out through Christ Jesus on the cross in His death; and His defeat of death, sin and Satan in Christ’s death and resurrection that brings Eternal Life to you. This season has a penitential character, a solemn nature to it. This is to help us remember to be repentant and remind us of our sin and our mortality.
We begin Lent with Ash Wednesday, which falls this year on February 14th, as a day to help us to have a penitent mind throughout the season of Lent. This is why we have the imposition of Ashes as a reminder to us that in sin we will return to the dust from which we are (Genesis 3:19). While the imposition of ashes reminds us of our mortality and our sin, it also reminds us of Jesus’ defeat of death and sin on the cross, and the atonement for our sin by His blood (Ephesians 1:7). As we feel the Pastor make the sign of the cross with the ash, we are also reminded of our baptism, as we were marked with the cross upon our forehead and upon our heart as one redeemed by Christ Jesus, who secured for us eternal redemption from sin and eternal life (Matthew 28:16-20; Hebrews 9:12). This penitential character is also shown in the color used during this season of the church year.
The color purple is used by the church to remind us of the character of the season. The color purple is used as a color of penitence. This character is carried over in the words we use in worship as we will omit the alleluias until Easter. This is also shown in the length of the season.
Lent is 40 days long as a reminder of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness, and His defeat of temptation (Matthew 4). Here we are reminded that Jesus was also tempted and that He stood firm against Satan’s temptations. This reminds us that He is our strength against all temptation in this life and our need for Christ’s death on Good Friday. It also reminds us why we have a character of penance in the Season of Lent: we are in need of redemption from sin, death, and Satan.
Our Epistle reading for Ash Wednesday this year includes 2 Corinthians 5:21, which says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” As you begin Lent remember God became sin for your sake by taking on our sinful flesh and dying on the cross to atone for our sin with His blood. In this defeat of death, sin and Satan by His own death, He freed you from them forever; and as He rose from death, you too shall be resurrected from death to Eternal Life, being made into the righteousness of God as you are justified and forgiven in Christ. This is why we celebrate the season of Lent, to prepare us to receive God’s reconciliation in Christ Jesus on Easter as we celebrate Jesus’ glorious resurrection and the free gift of God’s Grace that brings us forgiveness, Salvation, and Life Everlasting.