As we enter the time of Lent, we enter a time of reflection and spiritual discipline practiced by Christians worldwide. It is the 40-day season leading up to Easter and is often marked with fasting, prayer, and self-reflection. It allows us to deepen our spiritual lives and grow our relationship with God.
The season of lent originated in the early church as a time of preparation for Easter. Members were received and baptized on Easter, and those who were kicked out of the church because they refused to live by the church’s teaching were readmitted. During Lent, they fasted and prayed. They also studied and prepared for the commitment they were about to make.
Now all Christians are invited to participate in the spiritual disciplines that mark the life seeking to grow more in love with Christ. These disciplines include fasting, prayer, and self-examination. John Wesley taught that these Means of Grace were available to all people and were a way through which God works to shape us to be more like Christ.
The spiritual discipline most associated with Lent is fasting. Fasting, or giving up something we enjoy or value, is a way to remind ourselves that God should be our primary focus. Our ability or inability to give up that thing shows where in importance that thing is. It can also help us focus on God’s ability and desire to provide for our needs. If we cling to something so tightly that we can’t give it up, maybe we need to do just that to help us understand our dependence on God.
Prayer is another Means of Grace focused on during Lent. In prayer, we deepen our communication with God and seek his Guidance and wisdom in our lives. Prayer is an essential part of the Christian life. We are encouraged to pray regularly and to make it a priority in our daily routines. When tied with fasting, when we feel the need or desire for what we have given up, we can instead enter a time of prayer, again emphasizing instead our need for God rather than our other desires.
In all this, we have entered a time of self-reflection, looking at the things we value and how we spend our time. Are they in line with God’s desire for us and our desire to grow into the person God has created us to be? Are we using all the ways God has made available to us to experience His love and grow more like his Son, Jesus Christ?
This year, we will be starting our Lenten practices with a joint service with Paoli United Methodist Church on Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, February 22nd, at 7:00 pm at Berwyn UMC. This service will feature an invitation to the Lenten disciplines, an imposition of ashes to remember our mortality, and communion to remind ourselves that we enter this season to focus first on Christ and we enter this season as a part of a community gathered around His banquet table. Pastor Alice and I hope to see you at this service.
Lent is a critical time for those who follow Christ to deepen their spiritual lives, grow in their relationship with God, and be more like Christ in their living through practicing spiritual disciplines such as fasting, prayer, and self-reflection.
How will you make this time Holy this year?
This post was orignally published in the February 2023 of the Lighted Cross. Please use the links below to view the full newsletter.