Lent


Lent is the 40 day period beginning with Ash Wednesday that leads up to Easter.  Lent can be a powerful period of spiritual development if it is practiced in the right way.  For those familiar with Lent, it may simply be a time to give up something.  Often people begin to think that God is pleased if you sacrifice something you like during Lent.  This is absolutely the WRONG way to approach Lent.  Lent is about remembering our neediness; our need for a Savior.  Therefore we should not fast or abstain from things during Lent if it will only lead to a sense of spiritual pride (or failure).  Since Lent is a time to die to sin and the power it holds on our lives, we need to enter this time of year with humility.  It is a time to reconnect with God's grace on a deeper level once again.  So on Ash Wednesday, as the cold damp ash in smudged on our foreheads, we hear the words, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  We remember that we are not God.  We are mortal and but dust (made from the elements).  We humbly kneel, once again realizing we need a Savior to "Create in us new and contrite hearts" because there is no way we can do that on our own.

In the ancient church new believers prepared for baptism during Lent, those who had fallen from the faith and were penitent were restored, and believers prepared themselves spiritually for Easter.  So there has always been a focus on baptism, prayer, fasting, and giving to the poor during this season.  Unfortunately, Lent often becomes, for those who have practiced it, simply mindless rituals of obligation.  It is probably better not to fast or abstain during Lent if that has been your experience in the past and your tendency when it comes to your thinking about this most sacred time.  Instead it would be better to focus on the true meaning of the season.

Some questions to ponder during Lent.

1.  In what areas of your life do you tend to feel self-sufficient, shutting your need for God out?  Are you really self-sufficient?
2.  Have you been baptized?  Do you know what baptism is about?  If not, Lent would be a great time to find out more!
3.  If you have been baptized, do you live in a baptismal spirituality?  Do you recall your baptism each day and what it means to your life?  Do you renounce Satan and all of the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?  Do you renounce the evil powers of this world, which corrupt and destroy God's creation and His creatures?  Do you renounce all sinful desires which draw you from the love of God?
4.  Is there "clutter" in your life that you might drop and get rid of for a period of time, so that you can make room for something that God would have you take on (more prayer, time in his word, giving time and resources to the needy, or simply strengthening your relationships)?

A Prayer for Lent

Almighty God, You alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: grant your people grace to love what you have commanded and desire what you promise; that among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
from the Book of Common Prayer

Resources:

Information about Fasting


Video on Lent and Dying to Yourself

 

Ash Wednesday Service 2010 Audio


Ash Wednesday (The liturgy from our 2010 service)

 

Daily Lenten Devotional: The Awkward Season