Monday, March 7, 2011

Why Lent?

"A journey, a pilgrimage!
Yet, as we begin it, as we make the first step into the "bright sadness" of Lent, we see--far, far away--the destination.
It is the joy of Easter, it is the entrance into the glory of the Kingdom."
- Alexander Schmemann

Day after tomorrow, March 9, marks the first day of Lent in this year's Liturgical Calendar. For the first time since high school, I am going to observe the liturgical calendar event of Lent. I am well aware that Lent has a lot of Catholic baggage that comes with it, but I have other convictions for participating this year.

In Lent, we have a time of self-examination, listening, preparation, and repentance. It is important that we have 40 days to give to this vital work. We give little space in our world to this kind of attention, particularly to thinking about the gravity of our sin. At least, I do. This is why Lent involves choosing some discipline--an ordered way to obey the Spirit's voice in our life and to identify with Jesus' 40 days fasting in the wilderness, where Jesus wrestled with temptation and heard from the Father. We, too, must wrestle with temptation. We, too, are desperate to hear from the Father.

However, the focus of Lent is not on us or our sin. The focus is on Jesus. The focus is on mercy and renewal. Repentance leads us to the joy found in forgiveness. As Bobby Grass said, "In the solitary sojourn, we turn away from our sins and temptations and toward God and his great mercy." This is why the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays. There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Each Sunday we break our fast. Each Sunday is a mini-Easter.

The point of a discipline is not to prove you can do something hard or to show God how serious a Christian you are. Rather, the point of a disciple is to allow a way to practice what God is calling you into--or what God is calling you out of. A discipline is a response to the work of God's Spirit in your heart. Lent is probably most well-known for its sacrificial aspect, for the giving up of something in one's life. I have been given a list of questions and things to consider, so I will share them with you:

- For generosity, you could give away $10 each week of Lent.
- For simplicity, you could say "no" to all but essential appointments and duties.
- For solitude, you could cut off the internet and phone each day at 6 pm.

For discerning a discipline:
- How is Jesus prompting you into deepened intimacy and daily communion with him?
- What do you find yourself addicted to?
- How do your addictions (sins) keep you from the Lord and from living with freedom?
- Are you aware fo the ways you try to manage your life on your own?
- What does repentance look like for this season?

What have I chosen? I have chosen simplicity. Being quiet and still is something that I desire yet have a difficult time accomplishing. I'm a mover and a shaker. Time is of the essence. Time spent with God is vital. Will this be difficult? Yes. Will the discipline result in closer communion with God? That's the goal. Do not take it personally if I turn down requests. Pray with me through this season of Lent.

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