Reflections on Lent

This photgraph taken from the McEachernUMC.org website.

I was raised Catholic, married in an Episcopal church, had my children baptized in a Lutheran church, and have been an active member of a United Methodist Church for eleven years.  All of the places I’ve worshiped have had an impact on me and my personal spiritual growth.  They all actually have more similarities than differences.  Most importantly for me all revere Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior, as do I.  Every day I feel the comfort and love of Him.  I also feel exceptionally blessed to live in a country that allows me to worship freely.  (Thank you, sweetie, for helping to keep freedom free.)

 During this season of Lent we are reminded of our role, our renewal of commitment.

 This is an excerpt from my Pastor’s weekly letter for this week.

 “Lent is a season of forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter when we prepare for Easter by paying more attention to spiritual disciplines. Forty is a biblical number (forty days of rain for Noah, forty years of wandering in the wilderness for the Hebrews, Jesus spending forty days with the disciples between his Resurrection and Ascension) however the word Lent does not appear in the Bible. The word Lent comes from a Latin word meaning “lengthen” referring to the lengthening days during Spring. Ash Wednesday begins the season with a time of reflection, communion, and the imposition of ashes on our foreheads in the sign of the cross reminding us of our mortality.  

During these forty days we often give up something to remind us of Christ’s sacrifice for us. I encourage people to give up something that they feel is hindering their relationship with God. We also spend more time in prayer, Bible reading, daily devotional time, service, and worship. These disciplines draw us closer to God.”  - Dr. Jim Higgins

This excerpt from http://wilstar.com/holidays/lent.htm helps describe what Lent is.

Lent: What is it? Why is it?

The highlight of the year for Christians is Easter, the day when our Lord rose from the dead. Lent is a forty-day season of preparation for Easter. Lent always begins on a Wednesday, called Ash Wednesday.

Why 40 days? Because, Jesus fasted and was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days. Lent, then, is our time of fasting, prayer, temptation and repentance. Lent is not required anywhere in scriptures, but it has been a custom, which Christians have practiced for most of the last two thousand years.

In many languages, the word “Lent” actually means “fast.” This is where the custom of giving up something for Lent originated.

However, just to confuse things, Lent is actually 46 days rather than 40 days. Why? Because the 40 days of Lent are supposed to be days of fasting, which means days of discipline and self-restraint. But Sunday, the Lord’s Day, should never be a day of fasting, but a day of celebration! So each Sunday we suspend our Lenten disciplines and celebrate. Lent is 40 “fasting” days spread out over a total of 46 days beginning on Ash Wednesday.

The focus of Lent was always threefold:

  1.  It was a time to prepare new converts for baptism through intensive classes and instruction.
  2.  It was a time for long-standing Christians to review their lives and renew their commitment to Jesus Christ.
  3.  It was a time for backsliders to be restored to the faith.

In every case, it is a time for serious, disciplined self-examination, a time spent in intensive prayer and repentance before the cross of Calvary.

Put simply, Lent is a time to examine ourselves carefully. Here are some questions upon which you might pray and meditate during Lent:

  • Am I sharing gladly what I have with others, especially the stranger and the poor?
  • Do I have a gracious and patient attitude with others, especially those who irritate me?
  • Do I feel the power of connection to God and the church in corporate worship?
  • How is my devotional and prayer life progressing? Am I listening to God more and complaining less? Is it time for a change or a growth in my Bible study and prayer life?
  • What are the lurking sin problems, which still plague me?
  • Am I as thoughtful and forgiving of family as others, or do I take my frustrations out on them?
  • Do I speak up for the maligned and oppressed, or do I remain silent in order to remain popular?

All through the year, but especially during Lent, I try to really reflect on my personal relationship with Jesus.  Am I too attached to ‘stuff’?  (yes)  Am I doing all I should be to help those that need it?  (no)  In what areas of my spiritual life do I need growth?  When I read the questtions above - the one about having a gracious attitude with others, especially those who irritate me, really socked me between the eyes.  I generally try to avoid people that irritate me.  Don’t you?  Guess I need to try harder.   I also need to work more on my devotional and prayer life, complain less, and turn to my Bible more.  I will definitely work on those things pointedly during this time of Lent.  Is there anything in your spiritual life you need spend a little more time tuning up?

Most people give up something for Lent.  They focus on the sacrifice.  I think it’s also important to be reminded that this focused time is an opportunity for personal growth and  spiritual renewal.

I hope I haven’t been to “preachy” in this post.  I thought you might like to know what my background is and where “I’m coming from”.  Looking forward to getting to know you better.