A Brief Introduction to Lent

I am a Canadian citizen. That's the first time I have ever written that sentence. I have been a Canadian citizen for less than 24 hours as of this writing. At 1:15 pm in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 11, 2019, I took the oath of citizenship. This momentous occasion has caused me to reflect on the process of identity formation.

It became official, legal, established when I took the oath of citizenship, but I've been Canadian for a while now. I've lived in Canada for more than a decade making up more than half my adult life. I'm married to a Canadian and have two Canadian children. I may have been born in America, but I now think in kilometres, centigrade, and loonies. I use "eh" in conversation without even noticing. My hockey knowledge is getting up there, and I can enjoy a curling match as much as anyone. I've been unofficially Canadian for some time. The thing about this new citizenship is now it's really true.

This new legal status gives me rights and privileges I didn't have before. For one thing, I get to vote, and I'm looking forward to doing that for the first time come October.

While all this is interesting and pretty cool (if you ask me), it took a lot of work. There were forms to fill out, fees to pay, forms to fill out, health checks, forms to fill out, interviews, a test, forms to fill out, and a lot of time had to elapse. There is a required amount of time you have to put in as a permanent resident of Canada before you can even apply for citizenship. One thousand ninety-five days to be exact. They even deduct days you are away from Canada for vacation or business.

I don't know how they arrived at this number, but I understand why the government sets such a long time frame. They want those of us who come from other national backgrounds to absorb what it means to be Canadian. It's like that with discipleship. The only way to become like Jesus is to spend day after day with Jesus. We get to call ourselves Christians as soon as we decide to follow Jesus, but the work of actually becoming like him takes more than 1,095 days, it takes a lifetime.

Lent gives us an opportunity to focus in on some spiritual disciplines that transform us as Christ followers: prayer, fasting, and the giving of alms (generosity). By spending this penitential season in one or more of these disciplines, we will find ourselves more like Jesus. It is my hope that this Lenten Reader will be a tool to read and reflect on Scripture as we pray, fast, and practice generosity.

This year we are working our way through the Acts of the Apostles. It may seem odd to use a book that comes after the resurrection during a season preceding Easter. However, I chose this particular book out of an awareness that we live in a post-cross/resurrection world so while we journey to Easter through Lent, we do so already living into Easter reality. I hope that in taking time to dwell in these early church texts, we get a sense of who we are called to be in response to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

There is one devotional for each day of Lent. There are no entries on Sundays as Sundays are not included in the forty days of Lent. Instead, there are works of art to help you meditate and pray. Contributions for the Lenten Reader come from all over the Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada and guest contributors from affiliated ministries. Thank you to all who wrote devotionals and shared what Jesus was teaching you through the text. I am also grateful to Hanne Johnson for her assistance in editing the reader.

May you become more like Jesus this Lenten season.

Julia Sandstrom

The Lenten Reader is a gift to the Church and therefor may be used free of charge.
Please give credit where due when reproducing or quoting from the Lenten Reader.

(c) 2019 Evangelical Covenant Church of Canada Strathmore, AB
Editors: Julia Sandstrom & Hanne Johnson

Cover Art: Roadway with Underpass (The Viaduct), Vincent VanGogh, 1887.
All artwork is in the public domain and was accessed at wikiart.org, February 12, 2019.

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