"Yet even now, says the Lord, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts not your clothing. Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing." - Joel 2:12-13
As a season, I think Lent sometimes gets a bad rap. It's not full of presents, lights and carols like Christmas. It's not full of flowers, eggs and Alleluia choruses like Easter. It is solemn, introspective, and probably to Lent's great detriment, it calls for spiritual discipline. Let's be honest; whether you are two or ninety-two, no one gets excited about anything with the word discipline in it. Don't give up on Lent too fast, though, because it has a depth that isn't always obvious.
In the early church, the forty days leading up to Easter
(the season we call Lent)
was set aside so that Christians could prepare themselves for the high holy day of Easter. To prepare, Christians would work to mend broken relationships, give up vices that kept them from fully embracing God and commit to greater depths of faith. Whether they gave up an old habit or took on a new practice, the first Christians used Lent as a time to explore what it means to "return to the Lord, your God" and to experience God who is "gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love."
We do Lent a great disservice when we approach this season as a time of forced fasting from chocolate or sodas. If these changes in your diet help you distance yourself from a vice that impacts the temple of your body, please consider fasting from them, but if they are just something "to do" for Lent you may be missing an opportunity.
This Lent I am looking for ways to strengthen my connection to community and to God.
As I prepare for the holy celebration of Easter, I will be praying daily about ways that my habits keep me from being truly part of the community around me. To do this I will be signing up for a weekly Lent reflection that pushes me to think outside of my usual perspective.
One great option from Candler Creation Keepers is being headed up by our own Emily Carroll, ministry intern. This weekly email provides a scripture, devotion, action and advocacy around reducing our carbon footprint. If you are interested, details can be found in the right column of this email.
I am also going to be looking for new opportunities outside of Sunday to work, serve and pray alongside the people of Grace UMC. Being new here, I am looking for ways to join in ministry. If you find yourself in this place too, we will be highlighting ministries during worship on Sundays in Lent and providing connecting points to the great ways this congregation is engaging our community while learning more about God.
However you choose to shape your Lent, I hope you will prayerfully consider engaging in a new and challenging discipline that can help you grow in your faith and experience the grace and mercy of God.
Peace and Light,