People ask me all the time about Lent, what it is, and how did it start. The first time I was asked that I began a discourse on how fabric breaks down and gets trapped in a dryer screen, but as it turns out, that is not what they wanted to know. The Lenten season is an ancient Christian practice of preparation for Easter. Not preparation like getting the eggs colored and the baskets prepared to be filled with candied delights but getting the heart ready to mourn with the Cross once again and celebrate with the Resurrection.
When I was a young man growing up in church, I had no idea what Lent was, as it was never discussed in our denomination. We celebrated Easter as usual with communion and a message, but that was our only link to our Christian heritage. Once I learned of the beautiful meaning of Lent and how it knit me together with my brothers and sisters from the past, I mourned the loss of so many years. I write this today in hopes that you will not have to share in my pain.
What is Lent? Before Easter, it is the 40-day period, not counting Sundays, that Christians focus on and the universe-changing moment of the Cross and the eternal freedom of the Resurrection. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter Sunday. Some Christian traditions wear ashes on their foreheads in the form of a cross, which signifies their faith and the human being's mortality. These ashes also begin a time of mourning and penance for the many ways in which we have failed the Lord, and we all fail sometimes.
Aside from the forehead ashes, which may seem foreign to some denominations, there are other traditions that many choose to avail themselves of during Lent. One such practice is fasting. Traditional fasting has to do with food, but really, it is about doing without something important that is replaced by prayer. Food is traditional because it only takes a few meals to recognize the lack. Because of the visceral hunger, we feel it helps us remember to pray. As I said, many traditions do this differently, from fasting several meals a day every weekday, to fasting meat on Fridays, to fasting entirely for 40 hours. Regardless of what and how you fast, it is a time of prayer and devotion to the Lord and can genuinely be a sweet, deepening relationship builder with the Lord.
No matter what your Christian tradition, Lent is for everyone. We hope you will join us in contemplative prayer and looking ahead to the Cross's pain, and finally celebrating the joy of the Resurrection. Check our website every Thursday for a Lenten devotional that will help you lay down that which pulls us away from the Lord and pick up those things that produce renewed and transformed life.
We hope you enjoy
A Lent Devotion (Week 2) : "Release"
By Pastor: Kris Beckert
Jesus replied, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me. –John 12:23-26
When you let go, you let God work.
If you’ve ever been on a backpacking trip, you’ve heard the adage “only bring what you need.” First-time backpackers (and first-time parents going on trips too!) have a tendency to over-pack, causing everybody to question about halfway into the trip why on earth they brought so much. Thinking about the terrain and days ahead, it’s common to think you need so much more than you actually do. But then when you’re the one carrying the stuff, you discover that the very things you thought were necessary indeed become a burden, preventing you from traversing the trails and encountering the adventure you could have had.
So much of in life we are afraid to let go. Jesus addresses this when talking to his disciples after entering Jerusalem. He is walking closer and closer towards the cross, and he wants them to understand the upside-down nature of what it means to follow God. He knows what it means to fear death and thus cling to things we think will bring us life, but even moreso he knows what it means to fear sacrificing the things of life while we live, so as to place them in God’s hands and not our own. Often we are taught that clinging means we are strong; but Oswald Chambers warns that “perseverance means more than just hanging on, which may be only exposing our fear of letting go and falling.”
What are you afraid of releasing to God? We hang on to things, ideas, resources, and even people long past their due and they, in turn, become rotten seeds that never blossom or produce the harvest God intended them to. But the more we look outside ourselves and our desires to be in control of our own world (and the people in it), the more we recognize how we do not actually need the pots and pans for our camping trip. This does not mean we do not act or pack at all and let things fall as they may, but rather we do the hard thing God has been speaking to us about, step on the trail, and release the outcome to God. Will you?