Observing Lent

March 1, 2017

Scripture Reading: Psalm 32

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,
   and I did not hide my iniquity;
I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’,
   and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful
   offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
   shall not reach them.
You are a hiding-place for me;
   you preserve me from trouble;
   you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. –Psalm 32

Today marks the first day of Lent in 2017. Lent is one of the oldest holy days in the Christian faith. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 observed today*. It was formalized and extended to 40 days over the next few hundred years. My guess is some sort of preparation for observing the death and resurrection started the year after it occurred.  In the Jewish tradition 40 days was used to describe a substantial amount of time. While the term Lent may not be used, a large majority of Christians take time to prepare for the observation of the death and resurrection of Christ. Self-examination, penance, repentance of sins, almsgiving, atonement, and self-denial are often part of the process of Lent.

Our scripture today deals with acknowledging sins and seeking forgiveness for them.  It is important that we routinely examine ourselves and not only seek God’s forgiveness but also seek God’s help in correcting whatever has caused us to become separated from God. That said, I found it interesting that the writer of Psalm 32 jumps from such self-examination to praying in times of distress. Isn’t that just like life today. One minute we have some time to reflect and pray, the next we are struggling to keep from drowning whether actually or figuratively. This week I have seen several news reports of people dealing with disasters. People who have climbed to the roofs of their vehicles after been swept away in flooding waters were rescued by fire fighters. Horses were quickly moved from their barns that were in the path of a fast-moving fire. In neither instance did the people involve wake up that morning knowing what they would soon be facing.

I believe God is present with us always. Our spending time with God routinely makes us better prepared to connect with God in times of distress.

Prayer: Lord as we enter this 40 days of closer communion with you, enable our quest for knowing your more nearly. Make us whole. Amen.


All scriptures are quoted from the new Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights are reserved.