For 1,700 years it has been a Christian tradition to celebrate Lent. That means that ever since the 3rd Century, this has been done each spring. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, Blaise Pascal, Christopher Columbus, Martin Luther, and others likely took part in this historic observance.

Because we’re not liturgical like Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists Episcopalians and others, churches like ours have tended to throw out all the ancient traditions.  If they’re meaningless, empty traditions, they ought to be thrown out.  But I think Lent is one tradition we should retain.

Jesus gave up everything for us, so the custom of denying ourselves some comfort for the 40 days prior to Easter is an appropriate way to commemorate his death. It can be a way to draw close to Jesus as we in some small way “share in his sufferings.” An especially good practice for any of you fellow ascetics!

And it’s also a great time to focus on self-control rather than our usual mode of indulgence.  An especially good practice for any of you like me who need to practice restraint!  When else are we especially encouraged to exercise restraint in our indulgent society?

It begins this Wednesday “Ash Wednesday” when ashes are typically “painted” on the forehead in the sign of the cross to symbolize humility and repentence: a modern day version of “sackcloth and ashes”.

With or without the ashes, I challenge you to think of what you’ll seek to cut out of your life during this Lenten season. Not as an empty ritual, but rather as a way to love and connect with Jesus.