Can you believe that we are exactly one month from the beginning of Lent? It seems that it was just Christmas.
We all come from such varied backgrounds, it isn’t surprising when someone comes and asks what is Lent and why do we make such a big deal of it? So I hope it’s alright with all of you if I take just a couple of minutes to catch everyone up.
Lent is the 40 days preceding Easter. It is a time that we set aside each year to reflect on the passion of Jesus Christ and our relationships with Him. In early church history, it was a time of discernment and immersion for those wishing to join the church. See, it wasn’t a small matter to join the church back then. By aligning oneself with “The Way” as it was called, a person would be committing to a life of discipleship, service, and most likely dangerous situations. Remember, these were the days that a believer could just as easily find themselves in prison (or worse) as he could at a worship gathering.
So in the early church, a person was required to go through as much as a year’s study and preparation before taking membership vows. At that time, people only joined the church on Easter, that is when they were baptized. So as the church evolved, this tradition of Lent began. It is simulating Christ’s time in the wilderness, before his official ministry began. It was there that He fasted and prayed for 40 days. It was there that He was tempted by Satan to turn His back on God. That is why most people connect Lent with giving something up (food for example.)
Many traditions emphasize the “giving up” of something valuable during this time in order to identify with Christ’s suffering and sacrifice for us. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It is a valid form of spiritual growth. However, I would like to suggest that the opportunities for our own growth can be much broader in scope during this time.
Lent is a time in which we are called to seek Christ in a more intimate way; to discern His voice and work in our lives. It is a time that we intentionally draw near to Him. Methodism is an experiential faith tradition. We seek not simply to know about Him, but to experience His presence and the leading of the Holy Spirit. We seek not only intellectual information, but complete transformation of our minds, souls and spirits.
In this endeavor, I have a challenge for you. Over the next few weeks, I would like us to try something we never have in our time together here.
Each day, I will distribute a passage of scripture involving Christ’s teaching, actions, and life events. Instead of offering up a prayer as I normally do, I invite you to walk deeper into the scripture and seek the truth He has for you alone. This is how it works:
1. Read the scripture
2. Think about the overall meaning of it.
3. Pray and ask God to reveal what the meaning is for you.
4. Contemplate how you might respond to God’s message in this scripture.
Now this is not an exercise to be done in 10 minutes. The most ideal way (in my opinion) to be transformed by it, is to let the words (and emotions) sink deeply into your mind and spirit throughout the day. Several of us receive the emails on our phones or by accessing the website. Make a habit of looking at the scripture several times throughout the day. Think about it, pray about it as you are driving, cooking, taking a shower – just going about life and asking God to reveal himself to you. You will be amazed at the things He says to you. And if you are consciously thinking about it during your day, it is my expectation that you will begin to be aware of His presence throughout the day as well.
As an added step, I strongly urge you to consider writing down any thoughts or insights that you have during this time. THIS IS REALLY SIMPLE, so consider trying it. Most of our phones have a “Notes” section on them. Just start a page and record anything that comes to mind during the day. I plan to write them all on the same page so they are all together. It doesn’t have to be long or drawn out – it could be one word like “Compassion or grace or Jesus knows me…” whatever God puts on your heart.
HERE IS WHY YOU WANT TO DO THIS – You will have some incredible insights during this time, but most likely you will forget them as the weeks continue. Our brains can’t hold everything that happens in a day. But if you will take the 30 seconds to write down anything that occurs to you, then I believe when you look back over this period you will have an incredibly clear picture of who Jesus is, and how He feels about you. IT IS POWERFUL AND LIFE TRANSFORMING. You will be glad you did it.
So, let’s try a short one to begin:
Remember, READ, THINK, PRAY, CONTEMPLATE, RECORD –
Let’s spend the rest of our day on John 11:33-35:
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. Jesus wept.”