Lent was never important to the faith community in which I grew up. In fact, I was raised to be outright hostile to the season. Looking back, I believe that my parents and church missed an opportunity. Though many have rightly lodged their concern with lenten excess and misguidedness, I fear that the Church has allowed a few bad apples to spoil a worthwhile, historic practice that still gives life and points people to Christ and the cross each year.
In short, the point of Lent is to spend the span of 40 days before Resurrection Sunday (Easter) in preparation. Many people put something off as a sacrifice in order to mirror the sacrifice of Christ and remind them of his suffering. Other people take something on in place of that which they put off, allowing themselves to become even more mindful of Jesus through fasting, prayer, or another spiritual practice.
For those, like me, who did not grow up with Lent, it can be difficult to know how to prepare. A few years ago I stumbled across a little book by N.T. Wright, Lent for Everyone: A Daily Devotional. I came late to the game in regard to Tom Wright (or N.T. Wright, as he is often known). Tom is one of this generations most prolific, popular, and understandable scholars. He has the unique ability to put top-shelf content on lower shelves for everyone to access, no matter one’s religious background. Though many deep thinkers are able to write in an understandable way, almost none are able to do it in as few words as Tom Wright. THIS is what sets N.T. Wright apart from nearly every other modern scholar: He is short, sweet, and to the point!
Lent for Everyone is actually a series. In 2017, the Church Year is in Year A. If you happen across this page in a different year, then you may want Lent for Everyone Year B: Mark or Year C: Luke. The readings provide an inspirational guide through the Lenten season, from Ash Wednesday through the week after Easter. Each day, Wright provides his own Scripture translation, brief reflection, and a prayer for each of the days of the season, helping readers ponder how the text is relevant to their own lives today. By the end of the book, Wright walks the reader through the entirety of Matthew, along with Psalm readings for each Sunday. The book is short and is well-suited for both individual and group study and reflection. Wright’s Lenten devotional will help you make Matthew’s gospel your own, thoughtfully and prayerfully, and your journey through Lent a period of rich discovery and growth.
Personally, I found the devotional life-giving and easily digestible, both are important for any book that would be desire to be a devotional. Perhaps the highest praise that I can give any book is also due this one: I return to it again and again, never tiring of what it holds.