Lent constitutes both a challenge and an embarrassment to Protestantism. Each year as the season approaches it brings with it the temptation to equivocate. We do not know where we stand because our feet seem to be stuck in both camps.

On one side, our conscience serves to remind us that (if we are the practicing Christians we claim to be) we had better “do something” about observing the most sacred season in the Christian calendar. We are reminded further of what we know all too well, namely, that we have been over-indulgent, and that it would be an excellent idea to place ourselves under some kind of spiritual and physical discipline. It would not hurt us to “give up something for Lent.” On the level of personal habits we could stand a more rugged Christian discipleship.

Furthermore, the world in its own careless way seems to expect something of Lent. It is a time when the claims of Jesus Christ appear to enter the scope of legitimate inquiry. Publishers issue books of sermons and devotions dealing with the cross of Christ; pastors preach messages on the events surrounding Calvary, with the confidence that even the most liberal members of their congregation will hardly criticize the subject matter; motion picture theaters cater to the seasonal fashion by endeavoring to book “religious” films, even if these turn out to be sextravaganzas like “Solomon and Sheba” and “Demetrius and the Gladiators.”

For the minister to ignore Lent then would seem to be almost as wrong as for the minister to ignore Christmas. A rich opportunity for making Jesus Christ and his salvation real to sinners will have been neglected. The priest and Levite pass on the other side.

On the other hand, ...

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