The Minister’s Musings
The season of Lent begins on March 6th ; which is Ash Wednesday. This season is an important time in the life of the Body of Christ. It is when we, who are followers of Jesus, are invited to practice the disciplines of Christian spirituality in a specific way; focusing on the need of repentance and conversion; a turning around of our lives.
Christian spiritual practices of repentance and conversion usually revolve around prayer, self-sacrifice, and alms-giving. The point is conversion or a turning around from the paths we are on so that we can follow in the footsteps of Jesus more closely. These practices can be used at any time; not just at Lent and Advent. They are a means to an end (a way to deepen our faith and relationship with God) and in no way are an attempt to “buy” or “earn” our salvation.
Prayer: Prayer (in its many forms) should be practiced all year long. However, in Lent we are encouraged to engage in a different prayer form or to focus on our need to repent of the behaviors, attitudes, or habits that might be keeping us from a deeper relationship with God. This is not an exercise in beating ourselves up. It is a way to experience the healing of sorrow and remorse in hand with the grace and mercy of God.
Example: One year I knew that what was keeping me from a deeper relationship with God was that I wasn’t forgiving some people who had deeply hurt my family and me. So, every day I prayed for God to help me to let go of the pain they’d inflicted and asked God to bless them in some way. My hope was that by the time Easter came, I might mean it. After all, we are supposed to pray for our enemies and bless those who curse us. I did this out of sheer obedience, but by Easter I’d found some peace.
Self-Sacrifice: The idea behind this practice is to remind ourselves that our full dependence is upon God and not on the material world; things like food, technology, sweets, entertainment, etc. Giving up (for example) chocolate for Lent and then gorging on it on Easter Sunday is not supposed to be the goal. We are supposed to use this opportunity to detach from what has a hold on us that is not God.
Example: The oddest thing I’ve ever given up is make-up. Decades ago, I came to realize I was unable to see myself as God sees me and had bought into the idea that women are only beautiful if they look a certain way. So …. I went cold-turkey and wore no make-up for all of Lent. For someone who didn’t even run a short errand without the full mask of make-up, this was a challenge. As you can tell, I never went back; I can use it or not depending upon my mood. There isn’t anything wrong with make-up in and of itself. But there is something inherently wrong in the way that society perpetuates the idea that women are not beautiful in their own skin. I needed to break free from this idea. For men, I would suppose there is the need to appear “macho” and never show vulnerability.
If doing something is more up your alley, one year I kept a gratitude journal. I was not allowed to repeat what I was grateful for; (ex. Only once for family.) Then every week, I wrote a letter of thanksgiving to someone for the way they had influenced my life. This ended up being a blessing not only for myself, but to those I shared my thoughts.
Alms-giving: Giving of our monies, our talents and our time is a Christian value. It is a
reminder that this life is not our own, but a gift from God. We are connected to each other by the Spirit; when one hurts, we all hurt, and when one rejoices, we are all brought higher. All we have has come from God and we are called to share that with one another.
Example: Some people give up their daily coffee run and donate the money saved to a homeless shelter. Some go without their weekly carry-out pizza dinner and give the saved money to the church. Some people set aside an amount of money to anonymously give to people as a way to “pay it forward”. One year, my mother-in-law encouraged her sons to give up swearing. When they slipped, they owed a quarter to the box in the kitchen. The accumulated monies would go to the local food pantry. This, of course, left us with some hilarious memories; like the day one of them came home from a very bad day at work, dropped a five-dollar bill in the box, and let loose! Needless to say, it never had the desired outcome. lol
I share that last story with you to remind ourselves that we won’t always accomplish everything we set out to do during Lent. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try or challenge ourselves. Lenten practices are the tradition of the universal church to ultimately remind us at a deeper level who we are, and to whom we belong as we journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and the victory of resurrection. It’s not about perfection. The journey of faith is life-long.
I hope you have a blessed Lenten season no matter how you chose to keep it. And, as always, let us keep each other in prayer.
God’s Blessings and Peace
Rev. Carrie Orlando