I wrote this brief Lenten reflection a while back for our church newsletter.

All around the Hopwood community gardens are beginning to be planned. Lots are being measured. Seeds are being ordered. Fertilizer and compost are being procured. The industrious among us have already set aside a day in the coming weeks for starting our seeds in black plastic trays. As the days slowly lengthen and grow warmer, we know that spring is on its way. It will not be long until new life is enveloping us when we walk outside and finding its way into our meals and pantries.

One of the first tasks of planting a garden is taking an inventory of what you have. Do you have saved seeds? What kind of tools can you get a hold of? What is the state of the soil in your lot? It’s important to get a sober picture of where you are so that you know what needs to be done.

It is fitting then, during this exciting and brightening season, that we observe Lent, a season of introspection — of taking an inventory of ourselves. The word “Lent” is related to the words “long” and “lengthen,” and refers to the lengthening hours of sunlight as springtime creeps nearer each day. The season began on Ash Wednesday and lasts for forty days (not counting Sundays) until Easter. The length of Lent is meant to parallel the forty days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness and the forty years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.

The tradition of Lent dates back to the earliest centuries of the church. During this season, catechumens who were to receive baptism on Easter would prepare themselves through fasting, prayer, and almsgiving. The baptized joined them in this preparation as a way of remembering and recommitting themselves to their own baptism.

Today we keep Lenten observances (prayer, fasting, giving, Scripture reading) in order to focus our hearts on the Lord Jesus Christ in these weeks before Easter. This is a time for communal and personal examination, for repentance, for greater fervency in acts of love, for recommitment to the practice of prayer and the life animated by the Spirit of God.