Protestant Christians tend to be suspicious of church traditions which are not rooted in scripture. Lent falls into this category because it is not prescribed anywhere in the Bible. So why do believers from across the theological spectrum, including many Protestant denominations, observe this season?
The name itself is an Old English word for spring, which is indeed the time of year when Lent occurs - between the post-Christmas season of Epiphany and Easter. Hereon in Lent's biblical credentials mount up. Its forty day duration (not including Sundays, which are counted as rest days) reflects the forty days which Jesus spent in the desert, preparing for his ministry. And the fact that he was fasting explains why self-denial is another significant feature of the Lenten tradition, though nowadays we are as likely to be encouraged to see Lent as an opportunity to adopt better habits than relinquish cherished or harmful ones.
So does this amount to a "gospel of works"? Only if we turn an opportunity into a rule and no more than obeying the fourth commandment (Keep the Sabbath holy) can be regarded as "legalism". More positively, we can thank God for providing opportunities to integrate the great truths of the Bible into our daily lives in ways which recall the rhythms of Jesus' life and rehearse the milestones of our faith.
This year in Strath & Sleat we are observing Lent as a season of prayer, fellowship and mission, through a network of pop-up house groups, at various times and on different days of the week. We shall be drawing inspiration from 'Catching the Wave', which is published by the TryPraying initiative. If you have never attended such a gathering and/ or never observed Lent, why not take a leap of faith?
It won't do you any harm and it could change your life - for the better...