This month, we enter into the season of Lent. Traditionally, the Lenten season is a time of reflection and introspection as we look toward Easter. Beginning with Ash Wednesday, the season continues for forty days (not including Sundays) through Holy Week and ending just before Easter Sunday.
This is a season where Christians often focus on acts of simple living, prayer, or even various forms of fasting. We do this in order to focus ourselves more fully on God. These practices are in remembrance of Jesus’ wilderness journey. At his baptism, the sky opened and a voice from Heaven identified Jesus as God’s son. Afterward, Jesus is driven by the Spirit into the wilderness for forty days where he fasted and prayed, where he experienced temptation, and emerged prepared and focused on his ministry.
We have this opportunity as well, to follow a model of shedding unhelpful or unnecessary things in an effort to prepare and focus ourselves for the ministry that God calls us to do. Even in the face of weakness or temptation, we may find ourselves ready to follow a call we have already known or perhaps guided in new directions.
The forty days of lent may be seen as a tithe – ten percent of a year. And just like a tithe, it is not meant to limit us to focusing on God only for a limited period of time. When we take the Lenten season to bring ourselves closer to the Divine, we may find that the experience changes us in such a way that we continue to live even beyond the end of the season in new and different ways.
There are many possibilities for simplifying life, fasting, or praying during the Lenten season. Fasting can not only include a broad abstention from food (being careful about health and consulting a health professional if necessary), but could include fasting from candy, soft drinks, television, meat, or cigarettes. Some Christians will skip one meal each day in Lent and spend the time in prayer. Fasting could include giving up an activity and spend the time outside experiencing God’s creation.
Others may take on an additional activity during the Lenten season. Perhaps an exercise routine or a choice to spend time with a family member or friend may be an option. Sometimes giving time to a community program or justice work could be a Lenten practice. Another possibility would be to take on a regular time of intentional prayer or a regular devotional practice.
For more ideas, here are ten possibilities shared by Rev. Penny Ford, a United Methodist Pastor in Carrollton, Alabama:
- An electronic fast – giving up TV or social media or even all things electronic
- Start a prayer rhythm – go to the Prayer Wall at the Upper Room and pray for another person
- Go deeper into the Bible – take on a regular reading practice
- Forgive someone – maybe even yourself
- Give up fast food, tea or coffee – give the money you save to a worthy charity
- Create a daily quite time – consider 10 minutes a day in silence and prayer
- Cultivate a life of gratitude – write a thank-you letter every week, or even every day!
- Practice a Lent Photo-a-Day practice – share the photos!
- Volunteer an hour or more each week – feeding programs, tutoring, hospitals or nursing homes
- Pray for others you see – as you drive, walk, bike, work
And of course, don’t forget to join in Worship each Sunday in Lent as we talk through some important things to give: control, expectations, superiority, enemies, our lives, popularity, and death. These will be supported by small groups that will meet throughout the Lenten season. Please see these leaders for more details.
- Judi P. will lead on Tuesdays at 7pm at her home in El Cajon
- Malea S. will lead on Wednesday evenings at the home of Mary M. R. in PB
- Dee B. and Pastor Bob will lead on Thursdays at 1:30pm at PB UMC
- Al H. will lead on Saturdays at 9am at PB UMC
It is my hope that this Lenten season will bring a renewed focus on our faith and our God. May we always continue to grow to be more Christ-like.