Isn’t Lent A Catholic Thing?
It is most broadly practiced by Catholics, but also by ‘high-church’ traditions such as Lutherans, Presbyterians, and Anglicans. However, is has been observed by the church for a VERY long time. “In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting, but it’s unclear whether its original intent was just for new Christians preparing for Baptism, but it soon encompassed the whole Church.”
A Discipline of Abstinence –
“Following Jesus means denying yourself, saying ‘no’ to the things that you imagine make up your ‘self,’ and finding to your astonishment that the ‘self’ you get back is more glorious, more joyful than you could have imagined.” – N.T. Wright
Often, lent is associated with fasting (giving up on chocolate, coffee, social media, etc.). But if we are not careful, this can just make a hole that we will with something else (more food, other phone time, etc.). Therefore, rather than beginning a lent conversation with what we are giving up, we need to begin with an attitude of how are we going to engage with God in an intentional way that stands out from our normal routines.
This could be called…
A Discipline of Engagement –
We should look to this 40 day period as a season of preparation, as Jesus did when he went out to the wilderness before he began his ministry. This engagement could include the following activities: worship, prayer, study, service, fellowship, confession, submission, celebration, and hospitality.
Worship – We should have an attitude of expectation that God is going to do great things. If you have found yourself dry, cynical, let me suggest that you begin each day writing a journal entry or poem of worship.
Prayer – Begin a new prayer practice, such as Praying through Psalms. (Prayer Guide available upon request.) Currently, I’m reading through Tim Keller’s book on the topic, but that is not ACTUALLY praying, which seems more the purpose of this season.
Study – Read Mark (or Romans) plus Luke which totals 40 chapters. This, of course, should be done in addition to your weekly reading with The Cornerstone 😉
Service – If you recognize in yourself a tendency to self-serve – A weekly service project. We have an immediate needs at Love Inc. I would encourage you to speak with me afterwards for opportunities to serve in Love Inc.’s gap locations or on Tuesday nights at their Abundant Living classes.
Hospitality – A weekly practice of inviting ‘strangers’ into your home (not intimate friends).
Celebration – If you are in a place of bitterness, let me suggest a practice of daily giving thanks for a different aspects of your life, with a weekly meal of celebration of God’s goodness.
“Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us… . Self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer