We’ve been reading the Bible through together for the past year. The sermon comes from the week’s passages and in Sunday School we discuss the last sermon. It has taken a while, but now people are engaging with the scriptures outside of Sunday morning. People are asking me questions about the texts. I overhear conversations between others regarding what has been read. It’s been an incredible area of community growth!
The following is the challenge I issued to the congregation this past Sunday:
The Lenten Journey
Ash Wednesday is nearly upon us. As we prepare to celebrate the Easter Season, I invite you to join me in two spiritual disciplines; fasting and Sabbath.
Continue to meditate on His Word day and night. Let it challenge you and really consider its implications in your life. As scripture reveals to you the nature and character of God, mankind or yourself, ask, “How does this change me?” or “If I really believe this, how does it change my choices?” Find another person to share these insights with.
Sabbath is a simple resting in Him. It is not just a physical rest, which our bodies need. It’s not just an act of obedience or worship. Sabbath is an expression of devotion and trust. When you love someone, you spend time with them. It is difficult to consider anyone devoted to anything if the object of their devotion is not given a substantial amount of time. Sabbath also expresses trust in His provision, kindness and sufficiency. I don’t think we can justify a claim that God is all sufficient in our lives, but we have to work through the Sabbath.
Fasting is even more difficult to work into our lives. Yes, without a doubt, fasting is the giving up of food whenever it is mentioned in the Bible. I still think it is a good idea, but, since we want to spend more time with God, I am proposing a fast that leads to more time of devotion. Whatever it is you choose to fast, it should be something that draws you to God. Oh, as a side note, in rabbinic tradition, you do not fast on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a time for joy. However, if you are fasting media, it might be good to extend that to Sabbath.
Here’s my plan and proposal. I will keep an honest Sabbath during lent; a day set aside for rest, reflection, meditation and prayer. I will fast media after 7pm daily and completely on Sunday and the selected Sabbath day. What about you?
I observed my first “Sabbath” rest yesterday. As I continued the usual morning and evening meditation, it struck me how I tend to see the areas in my life where I miss the mark. Usually I can identify in some way with the rebellions, the arrogant, the selfish, the childish, etc. And, to be honest, these are sometimes true. But, I am not that man anymore. Through Christ, God has saved me from this body of death (Rom 7:23-24). I excel at seeing the dark cloud in the midst of the brightest silver lining. No matter how well I do, I can find the need for improvement. However, I am no longer condemned. I have been set free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1-2).
Lent has been about my fallenness, my brokenness, my sinfulness, etc. It usually revolves around what I need to change or what I need to “give up”. This year I choose to make it about His love, joy and peace. I choose to make God the central focus.