Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A Holy Lent

The church teaches us that every season of celebration (Easter and Christmas) needs a season of preparation. Lent (spring) is that time of preparation for Easter. For forty days and nights, excluding Sundays, we are invited to keep a holy Lent to get ready for what’s coming.

Some still say that Lent is Catholic and we shouldn’t do anything that comes from the Catholic Church. My response is: “Everything came from the Catholic Church.” In the beginning, the Catholic Church was all there was; so, everything that we have or do or practice had its origins in the Catholic Church. Those who still persist in this are Anti-Catholic, and I can’t imagine why- unless they decide that they have all the answers and all the truth. If that’s true they don’t like Methodists very much either. Don’t get me started

Lent, then, is a time of preparation for the Easter celebration. It’s forty days and nights, reminiscent of Moses on Mount Pisgah. Scripture says that Moses did not eat or drink anything for 40 days while he met with God. It also reminds us of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years. And, Lent begins with the reading, in this year, of Matthew 4:1-11, in which Jesus is tempted after 40 days of fasting and prayer.

We prepare for celebration by drawing close to God through the practices of the church. Often churches offer more studies and prayer groups. Some churches in our community are holding other weekly worship services. Of course, we worship on Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, and Good Friday. We invite each other to engage in prayer and study and fasting and service. Some will skip a meal a week and give the money to feed the hungry.

All of this is to help us. God is close to us for all of God. It is we who need some extra time of preparation, some extra time of consideration about the meaning of it all.

Some will give something up. I invited the congregation on Ash Wednesday to “give it up” for Lent. I even offered a top ten list of some options. One was to fast from all electronics during Lent. Some of our people nearly had a heart attack just thinking about giving up computers (I’m tying on one now), and Iphones, and televisions, and…

A friend of mine told me something –food- that he was giving up during Lent. I said: “Oh, you like that a lot…” He said: “No, I hate it…” I told him that the point was give up something that we liked to make us think for a time seriously about God instead.

Lent is the time when we join Jesus on his way to the cross. At Transfiguration, we saw Jesus high and lifted up with Moses and Elijah, a vision of beauty and wonder. The very next Sunday, Jesus is in the desert being tempted by the devil. Jesus has made the big turn now; he has turned toward Jerusalem.

So, as we study and pray and serve and fast and give up, we do so because of the one, Jesus, who crawled up on a cross and gave everything up for us.

So, let us during this season, give everything up for…him.

Dave Nichols

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