"As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus' thirst...'Repent and believe' Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor -- He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you."
Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Lent is a period of fasting, praying, giving, and self-discipline in preparation of the season of Easter. It recalls and symbolizes Jesus' 40-day fast in the wilderness. The Lenten season begins on February 18th on Ash Wednesday and ends on Maundy Thursday. Many Christians throughout the world observe Lent Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestants benefit from this annual season of sacrifice and simplicity. While Sundays are typically excluded from fasting and abstinence restrictions, and are not numbered in the traditional "40 Days" of Lent, they are still part of the Lenten season, as can be seen from their Lenten themes.
The primary purpose of Lent is to be a contemplative season of fasting, self-denial, spiritual growth, conversion, and simplicity. Lent, which comes from the Teutonic (Germanic) word for springtime, can also be characterized as a season of spiritual spring cleaning. It's time when we can commit ourselves to letting go and cleaning out the baggage that we all hoard in our spirits, minds, and souls. It's a time for taking spiritual inventory and then cleaning out those things which hinder our corporate and personal relationships with Jesus Christ and our service to him. However, we must remember that our Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, and help us become more like Christ. Eastern Christians call this process theosis, which St. Athanasius describes as "becoming by grace what God is by nature."
Traditionally, the tenets of Lent are fasting, almsgiving, scriptural reading, meditation and prayer. Because of various reasons we are not expected to uphold requirements of a strict 40 day fast. Most Protestant churches that celebrate Lent do not have official requirements. Lent is should never used as a way to impose religious legalism but to practice our spiritual liberation However, when we "give something up" for Lent, we are embracing a form of fasting, an excellent spiritual discipline. One can abstaining from meat, wine, oil, dairy products, sweets, caffeine, use of technology etc. Whatever you chose to do, the purpose is to make it a spiritual discipline to access the presence of God with Divine intent.
We often think of the season of Lent as a time of "giving something up." But Lent should also be what we intentionally do as a sacramental spiritual practice. Daily prayers, almsgiving, serving. and scripture reading are spiritual disciplines that we all can do for the Lenten Season that will awaken us to God in new and fresh ways. As Pope Francis observed, "Lent comes providentially to reawaken us, to shake us from our lethargy."Whatever we "give up" let us "add" something in its place.
It is my prayer for First Baptist that as we enter into this sacred season of Lent, as we as a congregation engage in the spiritual disciplines of fasting, almsgiving, meditation, scripture reading and prayer that we all we see spiritual transformation in our lives. This will impact not only our church but our families, communities, and wherever God leads us on our journeys.
With Great Expectations,
Pastor R. Grove