Last Wednesday I celebrated “Ash Wednesday,” the start of Lent, with Eastminster Presbyterian preschoolers and families in the morning and with our congregation and community in the evening. Throughout the day questions came up concerning the meaning of Lent. To observe Lent well, it is good to have a sense of the meaning of these forty days, excluding Sundays before Easter.
Lent originated as a time for preparation for Easter. During that time Christians repent… we turn from attitudes, thoughts and practices that fail to honor God. We seek to reorient to God’s will and direction for our lives and community. Martin Luther taught that the essence of Christian life is turning away from self centeredness and toward God. During Lent we focus on repentance and reorientation.
Some questions that may help do this include: What are my habitual sins? In what ways am I living a Lukewarm Christianity and how might I turn to love God wholeheartedly? What prayers and actions will lead me closer to God in Christ? To whom might I/we want to be accountable for change besides God?
In this sense, Lent is the spiritual equivalent of an annual physical. It’s a time to take stock of our lives and hearts. It’s a time to live our way to a deeper faith by self-examination, self-denial, acts of compassion, and deeper practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Scripture reading, and meditation.
In my life I have found two things. A simple Lenten practice is to give up at least one thing that keeps me from God and add one thing that brings me closer. For instance one year in my Lenten season I resolved to “eat less and pray more.”
A second practice is to have prayer and accountability partners. They help us grow and keep on the path of God’s will. You will meet two of my prayer and accountability partners Sunday afternoon if you come to the Service of Installation. They are Scott and Jane. Such partners help us not trivialize the spiritual life and keep us focused on growth and glorification of God. For instance, the Lent I resolved to “eat less and pray more,” I had already shared with Scott my sense that I was not glorifying God by my physical condition and I resolved to change it. So when I said I would “eat less and pray more,” he asked “and what about the exercise? Nailed!
The bottom line is we have an occasion to get serious about our spiritual lives and Christian walk right now. May we use this season to grow as individuals and supportive members of this faith community! Let me or another Christian know how we might be helpful in your development in the direction of life God desires. We don’t have to journey through Lent alone!