I am able to write today on pastorsponderings.org because here in Minnesota (where I live) it is a balmy -25 with a windchill of up to -45. Needless to say our worship services have been canceled today. That being said, I wanted to ruminate for a moment on the topic of Lent. Lent is a forty day period leading up to Good Friday and ultimately Easter Sunday. It is an important season within the universal Christian church – throughout all denominations. It is interesting to note that Lent is a forty day period which does not include the Sundays leading up to Easter. One might wonder why the Sundays are not included in the “40 days”. The easy answer is that each Sunday is traditionally its own mini Easter in and of itself. Talk about building to a glorious finale’ within something so profound and life changing!
“Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.” (source: http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-is-lent-and-why-does-it-last-forty-days)
Lent is so much more than giving something up for 40 days. I once tried giving up coffee for lent…THAT did not end well!
Lent is more than performing the Lord’s Supper in services.
It should be an act of self-denial as we contemplate what Salvation means to us and that of this most important relationship with Christ. His ultimate sacrifice and victory over sin and death leads us into this deeper contemplation and acts of self-denial. Can we afford to restrict ourselves? Can we afford to deny our bodies from something important to us? Some might contend that the extreme “self denial” act was demonstrated in the form of the old controversial act of self flagellation. I certainly do not recommend this method of “religious practice”. Christ suffered and died for our sins and though some used to contend that self flagellation was a means to become more “Christ-like” self torture is just too extreme and I believe not what Christ had in mind when He said “Do this in remembrance of me”.
There is the danger of avoiding the Lenten season all together and I would not recommend this route.
Leading worshipers into these times of self-reflection and spiritual walks which leads to the cross and the tomb is vital. If we avoid such potential sacred moments with our flock, we could be depriving them of facing the cross all together. It is more than the cross. It is more than the empty tomb. It is about what Jesus has done for the very fabric of existence in the souls of men and women everywhere.
Secondly, Lent can be an intense refocusing of our great commission here on earth. Revisiting the Divine in this way can provide us better eyes to see our neighbors, our friends, families and especially enemies. Christ died for everyone. He came for the whosoever and He longs for right relations with ALL, not just a select few.
When we under-emphasize this potentially sacred time in the yearly calender, we run the risk of under-emphasizing Salvation as a whole. We remove some of the mystery of God himself. I believe we run the risk of stripping down Holiness and depriving those who need it most. We ought not shy away from Lent, we ought to embrace it in the hopes of drawing closer to Christ-likeness.
It’s Not About Rituals, It’s About Holy Relationship!
Some might suggest that the practice of Lent is a little too “High Church” for The Salvation Army. Some might ask, “well what do you consider the entire practice of “Lent” to be? I fear that The Army steers too clear of any formal High Church practice because of the notion that most constituents would not understand or because there is no spiritual value in its practice. I beg to differ. I am not saying that we ought to pick up some waffers and some grape juice, but I am saying that If we practice and preach Self-denial, then we ought to be preaching a lenten message as well. One of the big questions is – are we ONLY preaching self-denial in conjunction with World Services? Are we only preaching self-denial in conjunction with fundraising in our corps? I hope not! With the right direction, Corps Officers and Local Officers can lead all corps members into a vital and precious season of Lent.
There is a lot to discuss here.
I will not dive too deeply today.
I only want to start the conversation again.
This is a primer of sorts, as we wade into the kiddie section of the pool. 😉
In being “non-sacramental” in practice, are we really emphasizing the transformed life in sacramental living (My life must be Christ’s Broken Bread)?
If not how can we improve this?
How is “Self-denial” emphasized in your corps?
Is Self-denial important to you?
Is the Lenten season important for The Salvation Army?
Can we emphasize the Lenten Season while refraining from what we perceive to be “unimportant rituals”?
Has your Corps ever conducted a traditional Sader Feast?
Is there/should there be a correlation between our spiritual act of self-denial and lent?
What does prayer and fasting mean to you?
Is the practice of Lent really THAT important?
Something more for our Army world to ponder today.
To God be the glory!