Oh God, It’s Lent
I probably shouldn’t begin a church newsletter with Oh God, it’s Lent, but then again, God is involved and it is Lent. So what is Lent exactly? Lent is the six week period of time leading up to Easter and it’s kind of a big deal. It’s a time when Christians are supposed to prepare for the death of Jesus on Good Friday, (solemn and sad) and then his resurrection (happy and celebratory) on Easter Sunday. Like Advent, which is a time of waiting and anticipation for Jesus’ birth, Lent is a time to reflect and prepare for Jesus’ death and rebirth. Like Advent, Lent is a time to pay attention to God and what that means to you.
So what are we suppose to do for 46 days (40 days plus 6 Sundays)? After enjoying lots of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday (Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday – no wonder after all those pancakes, great food, great party, celebrations…) and having a cross of ashes (usually made from the palms from a past Palm Sunday) branded on your forehead the next day on Ash Wednesday, you are all set to go for Lent.
Go where? Do what? Rules? Traditions? Expectations? Oh God, help me! Actually that’s not too far off, asking God for help. Sometimes we find ourselves in a place that requires God’s help and forgiveness. Lent is one of those times. What often happens after a great, wild party and eating lots of food? Maybe repentance is called for. Plenty becomes scarce. Feasting becomes fasting. Carefree becomes commitment and thoughtless becomes contemplative.
So what do we have so far? Repentance, scarcity, fasting, commitment and contemplation. To the average Christian, doing whatever they please (within reason), being happy-go lucky, eating whatever appeals to them, cheating on a diet, having no time to exercise or volunteer or pray, being lulled into the ordinary and ignoring God’s signs, Lent would seem like hitting a brick wall. It kind of is. Lent a time to stop short, wake up, and pay attention. It’s a time to intentionally do something that will allow you to focus on what could use attention in your life, encourage you to make some kind of sacrifice AND pave the way for you to renew your faith. That’s a pretty tall order.
So what are you going to do during this season of Lent? Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to get you started.
Have you done something that you need to seek repentance for or to ask forgiveness for? Do you need to forgive someone or yourself? Have you made a mistake that needs to be corrected? What can you learn from that? Have you looked for the goodness in someone you are having difficulty communicating with? Do you have enough food, clothing and supplies in your home that you might share with someone in need? Might you refrain from buying more and use the money you might have spent to help someone less fortunate? Could you think about cleaning out your closets and getting rid of the extra stuff that is weighing you down? Spring cleaning anyone? What can you let go of that will make more room for God in your life? What can you do that will benefit others? How can you be better for yourself and for others?
Are you thinking of fasting, which could mean abstaining from doing something or giving up something? Fasting is about exercising self-control. You make the decision to eat or not eat something or to do or not do something. Choosing to go without a particular type of food or abstaining from doing something you enjoy forces you to pay attention to the difference between what your body needs and what it wants. Fasting isn’t only about denying yourself something, it is also about experiencing a heightened sense of awareness of your thoughts and feelings. Abstaining or self-sacrifice isn’t only about you. It allows you to focus on something other than yourself. How are you going to direct that focus? Could you make a commitment to do a random act of kindness each day? Can you commit daily to being more grateful? If you start your day by being thankful, is it possible that you will set a positive tone for what is to come? Could you find time during each day to pray? Would that allow you to intentionally grow your relationship with God? Lent is a time when you can renew your commitment to your faith.
Lent means spring, a rebirth after a long dormant winter. God definitely has a hand in that. Look around you. Pay attention. Find a way to be closer to God by giving God more time and space to touch your heart. Can you translate that into bringing your faith to the forefront? Lent is the time to give some thought to what you can give, do or be. How you do that is up to you.
Joan Shisler, Senior Warden