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What Does a Holy Lent Look Like this Year?

by The Rev Beth Knowlton on March 02, 2022

Last year after looking forward to finally being able to offer ashes in person, we were hit with ice and bad weather. So once again I found myself sitting in my living room, my dog Scooter nearby, offering a word about Lent. At the time I said there was no need for an external sign of our mortality. We had no need to smudge ashes on our foreheads—we knew we were dust and to dust we would return.
This year feels a bit different—and yet not anything approaching normality. I’ve overheard plenty of people wryly saying they don’t need Lent this year, since we’ve been in Lent for over two years now. What I hear underneath those sentiments is a deep weariness. It is a weariness of the soul and underneath that a genuine desire. We desire to be in a season that has joy or certainty or greater control. We long to feel close to God and have new life springing around us like hopeful flowers.
I think that is absolutely correct. And so what do we make of these liturgies this year? Do we scrub our ashes off our heads as soon as we leave Ash Wednesday services? Do we not bother even to imagine a discipline we are taking on or something we are giving up?
If that is where you are, please give yourself permission to do what you need to do.
But, for just a moment, I’d love for us to consider together what an observance of a holy Lent might look like this year. Earlier this week as I was preparing for a bible study, I read that these 40 days are like a tithe of our time for the year. I had never thought about Lent in quite that way and it was a helpful way to imagine how I might frame this time. If I tithe my treasure, I do that in thanksgiving to God. I give money to causes I care about as a way of acknowledging that all that I have is from God.
When we say we’ve been in Lent for two years, I doubt it has that element of intentionality or thanksgiving. A two-year Lent is much more about being parched and exhausted. To tithe this season back to God invites me to imagine a different way. And frankly, we all will have a different way to imagine this, the same way we work our our own giving of our treasure each year.
What would a tithe of your time look like? What practice or way of being would help turn you more fully towards the loving glance of our God? What would remind you that new life is already on the way?

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