This year Lent started on Monday, February 23.
Yes, I know Ash Wednesday, Feb 18, is the traditional beginning of Lent. We did have an Ash Wednesday service, but it was more of an introductory discussion about the history and tradition of Lent and to share some encouragement to really engage with it as a faith community as well as individually.
It’s not a very “Baptist” thing. We usually relegate it to “those Catholics.” But I have personally found a lot of meaning in deliberately slowing down the pace of life and concentrating on the things of God as we approach Holy Week (which is also not really all that “Baptist” either).
Usually it involves some sort of daily reading and a devotional guide plus something “sacrificed” or “given up for Lent”. These are all good assuming they bring increased devotion to God and attention to conforming our lives to His Kingdom. This year, however, I suggested that we look at some aspects of it a little differently. Actually, none of it is unique to me or particularly new; it’s just rarely practiced in this manner.
First is the daily reading.
In the past, I have used the daily readings from the various lectionaries – Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, etc. Since we have been reading through the Bible together (a read the Bible in a year plan that is coming up on it’s third year), I decided to adapt the reading plan we are currently in to bring us to Easter in the Gospels on Easter Sunday. Many of our congregants have been keeping up with the weekly readings as we have moved through the Old Testament, but I really wanted to emphasize the importance of scripture in the community and made a push for commitment to read the same passages of scripture during this time. Also, the Common Lectionary often felt disjointed to me as it skipped through so many different passages. Our current reading plan is a psuedo-harmony of the Gospels as it attempts to be “chronological”.
Generally, in the past few years, I have supplied a devotional guide.
This year, there was no specific devotion given, however, I have no objection to these. They have been very useful to our faith family in the past. This year I asked simply that individuals would journal their thoughts, realizations and prayers as they relate to the passages they read. Each Sunday we will have an opportunity for one or two folks to share this aspect of their Lenten journey.
Fasting was really opened up this year with a multitude of suggestions.
We usually talk about fasting chocolate, coffee, meet, sweets, coke or something of that sort. Sometimes we fast video games, facebook, television, secular music or some other entertainment. I’m all for that type of thing if it can lead us into a deeper relationship with God through Christ. This year I suggested some other things that might be fasted, i.e. insecurity, bitterness, selfishness, over-commitment … (you’ll find a great list of them here!).
The idea in our fasting this year was a thoughtful effort to push out of our lives things that are not honoring to our God and bring into our lives things that increase our conscious contact with Him. Whether we fast something that reminds us in those moments of craving that we should be longing for God, or another thing that has been a distraction and turn our new found time to seeking Him, the purpose is the same. More of Him. Less of me.
Every significant action requires encouragement.
Since I was looking for a big commitment to meaningful engagement, we thought it would be useful to add another time when we can specifically engage with our Lenten journey in community. Thus Saturdays Surrendered was born.
Saturday at 7pm we gather in a home to talk about our travels in this strange land of Lent. We share encouragements for specific fasts. We share our journals and insights. We share our struggles and failures. We pray. A lot.
For me personally.
I’ve invested in this journey many times and in many ways. When I was receiving a substantial wage from the church, it was much easier to commit to days of fasting and a true “sabbath day’s rest”. Now that I am fully bi-vocational again, some of my options are limited, but I still have plenty of room for more of Him.
I do the same daily reading as my faith family.
Since we have been reading through the Bible together, I have been doing the same reading that is given to the congregation at large. However, I often read four to six weeks ahead as I think through the sermons I will preach. I would also read a weeks worth in one day rather than breaking it up throughout the week.
For Lent 2015, I read each day’s reading in the morning. I meditate on those passages. I let then speak to me on their own without competing with other scriptures in that moment. I guess it is a way of saying, “I slow down and savor the scriptures.”
I journal my thoughts.
As I meditate on the passage read, I ask Spirit to reveal to me more of God. I note things that I never really thought about (sometimes I note things that I have never even noticed before even though I may have read a particular passage 50 times or more!). I write things that inspire me to a higher view of God. I write things that convict me. I try to repeat what I hear of Him through the scriptures. Only a few days in and already I have had the opportunity to share something He has shown me with at least one other person each day.
In the past, the Lenten fast for me was a strict fast observed during my “sabbath rest” on a week day. This year as I work 3 jobs and do some work on the side, I struggled with this concept. In the end I settled for a strict fast from Saturday Surrendered until Sunday evening. This really isn’t a stretch for me as I have fasted from Saturday evening until after the Sunday service for years. Also, I have shied away from calling Sunday my sabbath. For me, Sunday is devoted to God, but it is not a day of rest, however, since I am employed in secular occupations the other six days a week, it is my best option at the moment.
In addition, I am also fasting things watched on television, whether it is a broadcast show or a dvd. The only exception to that is if we have a family movie night, I will still participate. This was complicated. My desk is in the same room as the TV. So far, I have taken up residence on the kitchen table to avoid the distraction, but I hope to soon relocate into another area of the house. I’d like to report that this has given me so much more time for correspondence, reading, prayer, etc. Unfortunately, I have been working, at meetings, visiting, at soccer practice or otherwise out of the house so I haven’t realized any significant results yet. But I am hopeful.
How will you journey this Lent?
Whether it is your tradition or not, I highly recommend it as a means to put deliberate thought and purpose into your relationship with God. It’s not too late to start!
No, you are not more holy if you do all these things and more. No, you are not less holy if you do none of these things or attempt something and fail. It is simply an opportunity to join with our Family of Faith as we learn to be His children in spirit and in truth.
May God richly bless the efforts you extend in knowing Him more.