This month, we begin the season of Lent. In a practical and especially numerical sense, Lent is the forty days (not including Sundays) beginning on Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter.
Some communities celebrate Shrove Tuesday, sometimes known as Fat Tuesday or Mardis Gras. The word shrove is generally understood to be the past tense form of a word indicating a search for absolution. In other words, Shrove Tuesday was understood to be the time to confess and cleanse in order to enter the season of Lent with a pure heart. Many celebrations include the eating of pancakes, a tradition started by 16th century Christians, and we will celebrate Shrove Tuesday the same way with a pancake dinner on March 5th any time between 5pm and 7pm.
And then in Lent we enter into a time of prayerful introspection where we choose to focus ourselves on our creator God. Inspired by Jesus in the wilderness, many Christians fast (giving up or reducing food, drink, or both for a period of time) or give up a luxury.
In my own family history, I recall one year where my family of origin gave up red meat for Lent. Without putting too fine a point on it, it went poorly. To this day, I can’t eat eggplant!
A growing tradition in Lent is to take on a spiritual practice like daily devotions, study, or acts of service. I encourage you to consider taking on a spiritual practice, and during this Lenten season we will be offering a number of ways for you to do just this. Pastor Christopher will be leading a study of Howard Thurman’s book Jesus and the Disinherited. Another study will use videos to explore the book Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi by Amy-Jill Levine.
A number of other possibilities will be available as well. This month brings an opportunity to learn more about Stephen Ministry, a lay care giving ministry that supplements pastoral care. We will also be making some changes to the Worship experience during Lent including serving Holy Communion every Sunday through the season.
The purpose of these spiritual disciplines is to focus on our faith. February’s sermon series reminded us to #SeeAllThePeople and that we are sent into our communities to offer Christ’s compassion and light. We shared the beginning of an idea for a discipleship structure that highlights four steps of spiritual discipleship. These steps may help us identify our place on our own unique faith journey so that we can discern how to continue our spiritual growth.
When we engage our spirituality and perhaps even learn ways that we are gifted to serve God’s people, we grow in our understanding of the commandment to love God and love our neighbors. In this way, we prepare ourselves to see and respond to those we meet in our communities.
I would suggest that this season of Lent may be an opportunity for spiritual transformation. I would suggest this season of Lent may be an opportunity to evaluate where each of us are on our spiritual journey and how we might continue to travel along the road before us, and that doing so makes us more able to #SeeAllThePeople and to engage more fully in our communities as the connected Body of Christ. I would suggest that this season of Lent can make it possible for us to be people whom God has made new, people who celebrate Easter as those who have experienced spiritual resurrection.
May we continue to see the light that shines on the path before us.