Meanderings of a Minister

What is Lenten?
February 17, 2012, 8:25 pm
Filed under: Articles | Tags: , , ,

Before I even begin this article, allow me to say that I am addressing this topic from the perspective from an outsider.  No, I am not an outsider to Christ.  He lives in my heart and is my Lord and Savior.  I mean that I am not from a church that normally practices Lent.  With that being said, what is Lent supposed to be from an outside perspective?  Good question.

First, the Lenten season officially begins with Ash Wednesday in most traditions.  In the Anglican Church, Shrove Tuesday is part of the observance.  Shrove Tuesday is supposed to be a day when people are called to repentance and a refocusing on their relationship with Christ and to spend a time considering the benefits their souls derive from this relationship.  Ash Wednesday is supposed to be a time of the outward show of the inward attitude of being broken over the sins that have crept into our lives lately.  When practiced from the sincere heart of a dedicated believer seeking to grow closer to God in preparation for the remembrance of Christ’s payment for our sins and victory over death, hell, sin and the grave, this can be a powerful experience.  In the Old Testament, the most common expression of sorrow was to tear one’s clothes, mess up one’s hair and to put ashes or dirt on your head to show people an outer picture of the inner turmoil of the soul.  Ash Wednesday attempts to capture this practice and picture.

After the brokenness and repentance that is supposed to accompany the observance of Ash Wednesday comes the observance of a period of self-denial and of continuing to draw close to God.  Ideally, a person would identify a particular activity or interest that is either drawing that person aside from focusing on God or that has mastery over them.  Once identified, that person would commit to set aside that activity or interest and use the time and focus normally invested in that activity or interest to focus on Christ and their relationship with Him.  For instance, let’s say that I have noticed that food has taken an inordinate amount of my time and focus.  Perhaps I know this because I have gained weight or I just feel that I am eating too much (gluttony) or I am spending too much on food (poor stewardship) and this has caused me to spend less time with Christ either because I am tired from carrying around the weight or I don’t have time to spend with God because I am always cooking, shopping or planning my next meal.  Once I have identified food as a problem, I might decide to forego a meal each day to spend that hour or thirty minutes reading Scripture or praying.  Maybe it is television that I need to adjust or eliminate.  Maybe it is internet, social networking, magazines, hobbies, friendships, etc.   I would decide to set myself aside from whatever it is for the purpose of spending time drawing near to God.

Once I have identified the divider and committed to set myself aside from that thing, I then begin to draw near to Christ.  I can do this a number of ways.  I can spend that time praying, reading Scripture, serving a ministry of my church, witnessing to friends, inviting people to church, or any other activity that helps me to focus more clearly on Christ.  The goal to this observance, from an outside perspective, is that by the time Good Friday is here, I have drawn so close to Christ that I can better understand the payment He made for my sins and I can continue to draw near to Him for the rest of my life.  Easter then becomes an awesome celebration instead of a somber reminder because I have already been reminded.

With all of that being said, I must also say that there is nothing described above that should not mark my life daily as a follower of Christ.  Perhaps Lent just provides me an external reminder of what should already be happening in the quietness of my heart.  If this is the case, then it can be an awesome time.  If not, I am just giving up something I didn’t need to do stuff that will not last.  Which one would you prefer?


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