Prior to Lent, a friend of mine was deciding what special practice she was going to add into her daily routine as a means of observing Lent. Following a time of prayer and reflection, she decided that she would assign 40 friends a specific day in Lent to challenge her to do something out of the ordinary and outside of her comfort zone. It was in the assigning of these specific days that she realised that, when you count the 40 days of Lent, you don’t count Sundays. This is something that was overlooked in her education about Lent as a little kid and it is something that is often not talked about when we talk about Lent, particularly in the Protestant church.
Another Lenten practice that isn’t often discussed, at least in the UMC, is the absence of alleluia in worship during the period of Lent. This practice has been a part of Lent since the 5th century. The Church stopped saying alleluia during Lent because some of us view this as a period of exile, as a time where we live in perpetual remembrance that we have not yet experienced the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
Lent is designed to create a longing for the future when Gods justice will roll on like a river, when righteousness will flow like an unending stream, and when the world will be bound together by love. We encourage this longing by depriving ourselves of certain things during the Lenten season through self denial and by changing certain things in worship.
However, I want to remind us of something: Christ did rise, and Christ still reigns. We are in a period of remembrance, but the self denial and the ceasing of saying alleluia doesn’t discount the fact that we live in a world where Jesus lives and we serve a resurrected saviour.
Sundays are feast days during Lent, working as little “mini-Easters” to serve as a reminder that Good Friday isn’t the end, that Friday gives way to Sunday and that love and grace and life always wins. So, celebrate! Offer praise to God, serve a risen saviour, and, if you want, say alleluia! I promise not to tell anyone.