It’s hard for me to believe that it is Lent already. You know, the 40 days leading up to Easter. I always appreciate that the Church has a rhythm to it. The big things that happen in the church year always have a time of preparation. Advent leads up to Christmas. Lent to Easter. The Easter Session prepares us for Pentecost. Warm up weeks that let us prepare for what it is we need to pay attention to. I don’t know if people in the first couple of centuries needed it as badly as we do today. But in culture where life speeds by and we are slaves to our calendars and always looking to what comes next – setting aside 6 weeks of preparation for Easter is much needed spiritually speaking. Otherwise, Easter would come and go like any other Sunday in the year. We wouldn’t even see it coming and if it wasn’t a Sunday we happened to attend church, we might not even know we missed it.
So what are you going to do in order to mark this time as different? People do a lot of things. Some folks give up something for Lent in order to imitate the experience of Jesus suffering and giving up his life for us. It’s symbolic, of course. Because there is nothing we could possibly give up that would come close to the sacrifice of Jesus – not even my Coke Zero each night. It may be a specific food but it may be a treat or habit that we know we would miss if we went without for 6 weeks. (It’s not really fair of me to give up coffee for Lent when I don’t even drink it to begin with!). But it also may be a negative behavior like gossip or binge watching TV that we give up.
Some folks choose to fast as a way to mark Lent as a holy time. Fasting is an ancient practice of voluntarily going without a meal or two in order to feel hunger pains and want and instead give more time and space for Jesus in our lives. Some people even collect an offering of what they would have spent on food and give to a ministry that supports the poor. Fasting is designed to be a form of prayer that allows us to experience a disciplined way of forgoing something that brings us pleasure and comfort and that we actually need in order to bring a more heightened sense of God in our lives. It’s a powerful experience that can bring clarity and deep alignment with God. Please remember to always drink water if you choose to fast food.
Other people choose to take on something in order to honor the season of Lent. It might be a special weekly volunteer opportunity. It might be exercise for better self care. It might be a prayer practice. Like taking time to take a slow walk through the woods each week. A couple of years ago I began to set aside special prayer time on my Sabbath day- Friday- where I would color a Labyrinth pattern or Celtic Knot and use that time to just be quiet and listen to God. For someone like me who likes to be doing something all the time, it has taken several years to learn how to quiet myself and set aside all other distractions and just color and listen. But I have found it to be good for my soul. It’s amazing what I can hear when I stop to listen to God’s quiet voice in my life. And it’s equally amazing how fast after Lent ends that the space gets filled up with the noise of life.
As our church takes a special emphasis and prays for each of our members and friends to become transformed disciples, I hope this Lent you will think about taking on some kind of practice that will set these next 6 weeks aside as special. That you will give some extra time to your relationship with Jesus. I’d love to hear what you are doing this year- respond in the blog or facebook comments.
I’ll start. I’ve had a rough health year physically so I’m going to be ambitious and do three things for my wellbeing. I’m going to do my weekly Labyrinth coloring prayer time. I’m going to make sure I am exercising 4 times a week. And I will be giving up fried foods and sugar. (Yes, I am keeping my Coke Zero- but trust me- this trio of choices will be quite the challenge). Normally I would choose only one but I am feeling a need to be very intentional with this gift of preparation time.
Can’t wait to hear what God is nudging you to give up or take on this year. Whatever it is, may it draw you ever closer to Jesus. May it help Jesus be ever more in the forefront of your life and not set aside for one day of the week or when its convenient. I’m pretty sure the cross was ever so not convenient for Jesus. Making a sacrifice of desire or time is the least I can do. What about you?
Pastor Lory Beth