The season of Lent is upon us. Tomorrow begins the 40 day journey. As I offer you this post I (Fred) must say on the front-end that it was inspired by my friend Chris Morton, a church planter in Austin Texas. In his post (from which I borrow) he offers a good explanation as to why Lent can be a beneficial spiritual practice as we prepare for Resurrection Sunday. However, I will also offer some personal reflections.
Lent is a traditional fast that has been practiced by Christians for many centuries. The purpose of Lent is to prepare oneself for the celebration of resurrection. Through fasting and prayer, one experiences a small sense of Jesus own journey toward the cross.
In a world bent on fast paces, instant gratification and limitless choice, the practice of Lent allows us to meditate on our limits and catch our breath. With our tendency to succumb to such a culture we are reminded that we desperately need divine resurrection and the divine breath of God, the Holy Spirit.
Lent is one of the oldest known celebrations of the church, first mentioned in the second century by an early Church Father named Ireneus. Although it’s practice has varied in terms of length, it has always been focused on providing an opportunity for self-examination and repentance in preparation for Easter. Initially the practice was a strict fast of 40 days. Over the centuries it was relaxed to specific dietary restrictions. In recent decades, the practice has been limited to giving up something specific.
Practices to consider
- Purposefully study scripture. Try the practice of Dwelling in the Word (go here) or Lectio Devina (go here). This is a powerful way of reading Scripture, or better yet, allowing Scripture to read you. Practice this in some form of christian community, whether with your missional community or your family.
- Practice a fast by giving up something that will hurt. This could be an unnecessary habit like coffee or chocolate, or a few meals a week. Each time you reach for that something you will be reminded as to why you will not indulge. At that moment, remember Christ, His life, death and resurrection. Meditate in hope of the life He has given you as a citizen of His kingdom.
- Set aside time every day to meditate and reflect. Ask God to make you aware of how short life is, and how to better take advantage of it.
- Or click here for a variety of ways to practice Lent.
Why Recognize Lent?
Like many Church practices, Lent is not directly commanded in scripture. However, it can be a valuable opportunity for spiritual formation.
Personally, I have found it helpful to observe the Christian calendar in order to cultivate a deeper rhythm of life. I am learning that my life needs to be organized by more than my occupation or the things society promotes. Setting aside days and weeks to experience the reality of life in God’s kingdom has proven to be most helpful in my life. Lent is a useful tool for learning how to do that in what I believe to be a very special season.
While everyone will experience this season differently, we hope that it will be transformative for everyone.