What is it about Lent which makes us come over all medieval? It's the 21st century, and we are post modern charismatics, yet to read some of the trending twitter feeds and blogs this week, you would have to assume that the Reformation never happened!
I've got news for you, the Reformation DID happen. Not only do I no longer need to wear a Tudor codpiece to keep in step with fashions, but I've also got the privilege of living after Luther, Calvin at al.
Luther did all the lent stuff, all of the time - all before the light of the gospel of grace broke over his broken life. His mad monastic lifestyle, through which he was trying to get right with an angry God, nearly drove him insane. But then came a glorious moment of relief whilst reading Paul's letter to the Romans over and over - suddenly it came - the righteous shall live by faith!
Don't get me wrong. I'm all for some quiet reflection in the run up to Easter. I like to do a little Lent reading, I even enjoyed working through Cranmer's book of prayer a couple of years ago. Maybe Lent is a good opportunity to get a grip on some issues of shaky self discipline, to wean yourself off the Xbox or the daily latte? Certainly, Lent is a great way to rediscover some spiritual disciplines, giving yourself to prayer and the word, maybe even to identify in some way with the poor and suffering as we approach Easter.
But Easter is the big clue. Easter was the turning point in history. What are you giving up for Lent? The gospel tells us that Jesus Christ gave Himself up on the cross. His once and for all sacrifice, rendering all our little self sacrifices meaningless. If Lent achieves anything, it must point us to a broken Christ on a cross declaring, 'It is finished' over our attempts at self righteousness.
To try to please God in this way is called religion, and the Easter cross tells us that the ONE thing we CAN give up for Lent is religion!