Lent 101

 

While some may be familiar with the Lenten season, many who did not grow up in a liturgical church may be unfamiliar with this season of the church calendar. If you’re unfamiliar with Lent, it is simply the 40 days preceding Lent. Many believers chose this time to focus on Jesus' suffering and sacrifice on earth in the weeks leading up to Easter when we celebrate his Passion and glorious Resurrection. During this time, many devote themselves to prayer and fasting or abstinence in preparation for the Easter celebration.

 

For those who didn’t grow up with this practice, it may seem legalistic or works based, however, in my personal experience I have found it to be a wonderful time of spiritual development that has drawn me closer to Christ. Lent begins with the celebration of Ash Wednesday, a service dedicated to reflection and repentance, and proceeds for 40 days. This 40 day fast is modeled after Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness.

 

During his ministry on earth, Luke writes that Jesus, “Frequently withdrew into the wilderness to pray” (5:16). Just as our Savior did, lent is a time to spiritually reflect on things which draw us away from God, so fasting or abstinence from these things can be an opportunity to grow. It is also a time that allows us to better understand the sacrifice of Christ through our own sacrifice and discipline.

 

On the subject of Lent. The blog Anglican Pastor notes that Lenten fasting allows believers to focus on:

 

-Being Christ like. (Matthew 4:1-17; Luke 4:1-13).

-Working toward spiritual purity. (Isaiah 58:5-7).

-Repenting of sins. (See Jonah 3:8; Nehemiah 1:4, 9:1-3; 1 Samuel 14:24).

-Petitioning God. (2 Samuel 12:16-23).

-Strengthening our prayer life. (Matthew 17:21; Mark 9:17-29; Acts 10:30; 1 Corinthians 7:5).

 

For those looking to participate, the writer also suggests that Christians should “Give up something reasonable. I don’t mean easy. I mean reasonable. Give up something that you will notice. You will want it, but it won’t be there. Something you will probably regret giving up about two weeks in. Give up something that you don’t have to give up. Lent is not a diet.”

 

This discipline takes many forms and is tailored towards the individual based on your personal walk with Christ. People give up everything from solid food to Netflix and everything in between. Personally, I find myself struggling with disorganization and laziness when it comes to keeping my home in order. On top of that, I often get frustrated when I clean and my roommates don’t. Although it may not seem overly spiritual, I recognize that this is an area where I have a shortcoming which causes me to treat others with less grace than I should. Because of that, I’m giving up messiness and laziness for Lent along with spending more time in prayer. After I get home from work, I’ve decided to do at least one chore before I can relax and that I will pray while I do it. It may seem simple, but it is something that will be a challenge for me.

 

Not only will it be a challenge to do, it will be a challenge to do gracefully. As I work through this spiritual discipline, I find Jesus’ teaching from Matthew 6:16-28 particularly poignant:

 

“Moreover, when you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your father who is in the secret place; and your father who sees in secret will reward you openly.”

 

References:

http://anglicanpastor.com/fasting-for-lent/

http://anglicanpastor.com/why-lent-questions-for-an-anglican-priest/