Lessons from the Heart
I was raised in a Christian home. I was not, however, raised in a church that observed Lent. To some of you who are reading this, you can hardly believe a person could be raised in a Christian church but not observe Lent. Some who do celebrate and practice the traditions of Lent could not imagine not observing this sacred season, right?
Having not been reared in a “Lenten” environment, I thought it necessary to get an official definition, so, I went to Wikipedia (the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit) and found this: “The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer - through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
As a pastor and minister of the gospel, you would imagine me to be all into the “Lenten Season.” You would expect me to be carefully observing all the above mentioned traditions of these annual activities of Lent. I must publicly and truthfully admit I’m not one who is disciplined; certainly not THAT disciplined! Maybe some prayer and maybe a little selfdenial once in a while but certainly not all those attributes! Look at that list: prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial. No way do I observe all that, and if I were to guess, neither do many of you. Hey, I’m certainly not judging…”just sayin’…”
Re-reading the Wikipedia definition of Lent, notice the purpose is to prepare the believer… to recall the events of the Passion of Christ. The question that I wrestle with is how do you really prepare to recall, and to meditate on what Christ did for those who believe in Him? I can pray, I can fast, and I can repent and perform acts of self-denial, but to really come to a place where I can fully appreciate what Christ did for me? I don’t think so! I would like to think that 40 some days of spiritual sacrificing would bring me to the place of appreciation of Christ’s supreme sacrifice.
Lent and the Season of Lent is a great reminder of what we as followers should be about 24/7. Rather than 40 some days once a year, Christ calls us to a total surrender, to take up our cross and follow Him. Instead of a stab at self-denial, we are to be “living sacrifices,” a total giving of oneself to the cause of Christ. Yes, Lent is a good start, but the culmination does not really come on Easter Sunday. The culmination comes on that day when the Eastern sky splits and our Lord and Savior returns to claim His Bride, the Church.
What God calls us to and calls us to be is totally given over to Christ. Jesus calls us all to follow Him; take up your cross and follow me, He says. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matt 16:24 NIV
As we worship and participate in these significant spiritual acts of sacrifice during Lent, I encourage you to allow Lent to propel us to our true calling: living sacrifices. Paul, writing in Romans 12:1, said, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship.”
Forty some days is a prelude to our true calling: living sacrificially. May it be so in me, may it be so.
Ed Selvidge is pastor of Camden United Methodist Church and Radnor United Methodist Church.