Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Practicing the Practice of Lent

Yesterday, I shared a little bit about Lent. About the history of it and a bit of the why behind it. By practicing Lent for the 40 days before Easter through prayer, giving or fasting, we humble ourselves, recognize and repent from our sin and acknowledge that we need Jesus. We look forward to Easter, the cross, and celebrate that Jesus paid it all. 

No matter how you decide to practice it, Lent is about giving something up. Time. Food. Finance. Our own way. Its not even so much about what you give up but that you give something up. Giving up something is not common practice in our culture. We want more and are encouraged to go after it -  More time. More money. Bigger houses - so giving up something, even for forty days, is counter cultural but there’s something that happens inside us when we willingly give something up, or at least modify what we’re doing, no matter how important it might be, in order to enter more intentionally into discipleship, prayer, self-examination and repentance. 

One of the authors I’ve been reading lately put it this way: “When we give up something in order to focus on Jesus and get low to see Him in our proper place, we gain a a pure and reverent awe of Him.” 

You see, we actually gain when we give up. We find mercy and grace and hope for the eternal. Jesus meets us there. And that’s where we find ourselves at Lent. The opportunity to give up something in order to gain a clearer view of the resurrection. 

Ash Wednesday is this coming Wednesday. Will you consider giving up something in this season? 

Here’s a few ideas (from the upper room)

Will you try an electronic fast? Give up TV or Facebook, email or texting for one day a week (or the whole of lent) and choose to read and pray instead? 

Start a rhythm of prayer. Each day pick someone or something to pray for. 

Go deeper into the Bible. Pick a book or chapter of scripture to study every day. 

Forgive someone who doesn’t deserve it. Maybe even yourself. 

Create a daily quiet time. Perhaps you will spend 10 minutes a day in silence and prayer. 

Cultivate a life of gratitude and encouragement. Write someone a note of thanks or encouragement every day of lent. And give it to them 

Participate in a lent photo a day practice and pray each day with your camera in hand. Capture those daily gifts of his presence that you might otherwise miss. 

Volunteer one hour of more each week with a local shelter, tutoring program, nursing home, etc. 

Pray for others you see as you walk or drive to and from classes or work. Turn the radio off while you drive and reclaim that time for Jesus. 

Give up soft drinks, fast food, tea or coffee. Fast from something. 

Now, there’s something interesting about practicing a fast during lent. Has anyone done the math? Feb 10- March 27 is actually 46 days….so how do we get 40 days for Lent? We’re actually going to take out the 6 Sundays. 

Historically, Christians wouldn’t fast on Sundays. In fact, they weren’t allowed to fast on Sundays. Because Sundays are a little Easter and always a time to FEAST! The Bridegroom is here! Christ is Risen! Even during Lent, Sundays remind us that the darkness will not last forever and Jesus is victorious! This is why Sunday celebrations are so important.

So Sundays become like a little tease, a taste of what is to come when Lent is over and we are free to enjoy whatever it is we are fasting from, when we get to celebrate. Sundays are like little Easters and those 6 Sundays during Lent serve to increase the anticipation for the one to come.

Giving up something and denying our own will for a period of time to replace it with the ways of Heaven is the point. So, if you take up a practice of say solitude or prayer or study for Lent, you may want to keep it up through the Sundays. It will be 46 days - great! - but if you fast, it is encouraged to break fast on Sundays and enjoy a bit of celebration.

Whatever way you choose to practice Lent, I am hopefully trusting that Jesus will meet you. 

A while back, I read a book on prayer by Micha Barton. This is how she describes her encounter with practicing Lent. 

“In the candlelit chapel, I ran my mind through what I could release those forty days of Lent. What did I depend on most in my small, book-filled student life? Coffee. I took the ashes and gave up coffee. 

Every morning during those six cold weeks of February and March, while the snow piled outside, I brushed the frozen white from the car windows so I could make it on time to teach my eight o’clock freshman writing seminar. And each morning as I entered my day without coffee, I thought of Easter. I longed for Easter the way I realized I should have always longed for Easter. Resurrection is true, and it is happening, I would whisper to myself, as if the cosmic salvation from Christ were occurring all over again, right then, in some realm and time outside my own. I was going to be rescued from my spiritual failure and loneliness. I was going to drink coffee. “ 

And so, 

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, 
to the observance of a holy Lent, 
by self-examination and repentance; 
by prayer, fasting and self-denial; 
and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.  
And, to make a right beginning of repentance, 
and as a mark of our mortal nature, 
let us now kneel before the Lord, 
our maker and redeemer.” 

Book of Common Prayer 

*This post has been informed, in idea and sometime in wording, by the resources found in here. 

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