February 17, 2010

The Lenten Journey

Today is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent, a journey of preparation that takes us to the foot of the cross and ends with an empty tomb. As a Christian, Lent is a time to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry (Matthew 4:1-11). It provides an opportunity for Christians to find specific ways to refocus on their relationship with Christ through different spiritual disciplines like prayer, fasting, service and study. So often Lent is approached as a time of "giving up" something (chocolate, caffeine, the internet, sweets, etc.) but it must not stop there. The point of abstaining from something is to replace it with something else that draws one closer to God. I've heard it said that fasting without prayer (or one of the spiritual disciplines) is simply dieting. The purpose of Lent is to have more God, not less.

Now, if you are not a Christian, Lent might be a time of exploration and questioning as it ends with one of, if not the most significant Christian event in the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. If there is ever a time of year to look a little deeper into what it means to be a Christian, Lent is the perfect opportunity to do so.

Whether you call yourself a Christian or not, if one approaches it with an openness and willingness, the Lenten journey will not disappoint.

6 comments:

Kathy said...

Thanks for posting this. Mac's comment on Sunday and your words that "The point of abstaining from something is to replace it with something else that draws one closer to God." finally made it click for me. Each year I give up some bad habit, but that's it, it's a sacrifice but doesn't mean anything. This year I'm going to give up "emotional eating" and replace it w/ prayer and/or Bible verses to meet my emotional needs and remind me why we observe Lent in the first place.

Parke Ladd said...

Matt,

Thanks for your insights. So true, Lent is a time for having more of God, and if that means giving something up to realign your focus, then so be it. But, I'm following you and Kathy. So many times Lent is a time to diet, lose weight, or give something up. We easily transform Lent into an extension of our New Year's resolutions. If we faltered somewhere over the past month with whatever we resolved to do, than this is the time to rehash, refocus, and start again. Lent, as you say, is so much more than this. Lent is a time for more of God, more prayer, more worship. I can't stop thinking about this. How special a time this is to diligently and purposefully focus more of our attention and energy onto Christ; to more fully commit to Him and His path for our lives. It's really an incredible season. And, as you say, what better time for someone, regardless of whether they follow Christ or not, to explore what this whole Christianity thing is really all about. Thanks again for your thoughts.

ryansawrie said...

Thanks for writing, Matt. It's encouraging to hear people are choosing to partake in "The Lenten Journey" out of a desire to worship God and not just out of ritual.

As someone who has been attending non-denominational church services for half of my life now, I find myself wishing lately that the churches I have been involved with would take things like Lent and Advent more seriously, recognize the opportunity that these seasons can bring to a believer's life, and encourage others to consider taking part.

Matt Lipan said...

Kathy: thanks for the read and comment.

i hope and pray that you find your time with God emotionally filling. isn't it interesting how often we try to fill ourselves with things that just leave us feeling emptier than when we started?

thanks for being willing to share openly and honestly.

Matt Lipan said...

Parke Ladd: thanks for the read and comment.

first, i must say that i really like your name, ha! what a cool last name and i like the way 'Parke' is spelled.

second, some great thoughts. i'm not sure i've ever thought of Lent as a 2nd chance at resolutions but i can see that making sense. what an unfortunate take on this special time in the Christian year. being intentional about having more of God is, like you mentioned, what Lent is all about.

third, it seems like Lent could also be a cool time to walk with someone who is wanting to know more about what it means to follow Jesus.

thanks again for sharing.

Matt Lipan said...

ryansawrie: thanks for the read and comment.

growing up Roman Catholic, the seasons of the Church were always a big part of my life and i must say, though i am no longer RC, i still appreciate the special times in the Christian year, especially Advent and Lent. i do think there is something powerful and even evangelistic that can be found in these seasons. i agree with you that they provide an opportunity to invite people to join the journey of following Christ.

thanks for sharing.