From the Pastor March 2024

Lent for a Lifetime

“Lent comes providentially to awaken us, to shake us from our lethargy.” –Pope Francis

I love spring! In fact, it will officially arrive in just a few weeks. Soon the time will change, daylight will lengthen, and the earth will begin teeming with new life. As I sit to write, my calendar reminds me we are days away from Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. By the time you read this, we will be a couple of weeks into our forty-day journey toward Easter. I wonder, how is it going for you so far? Perhaps you grabbed a copy of the devotional guide and have been allowing its daily meditations to inspire your thinking. Maybe you set aside additional time for prayer and personal reflection. Who knows? You might have surrendered that chocolate bar you enjoy so much. Regardless of your decision, it is a matter between you and God, and not a display of personal piety to gain the admiration of others.

Since the fourth century, Christians around the world have observed this season as a period of preparation for Easter. Through careful self-examination, confession, and repentance, the faith community addresses those areas of life which can be easy to ignore: our mortality and the effects of our sin nature. My first exposure to Lent was during my studies at Mount Olive College (now the University of Mount Olive) more than twenty years ago which then carried over into my first ministry setting. For many in the Protestant branch of Christianity, the practice of Lenten disciplines can seem foreign because there is no mention of the word within Scripture. The term actually traces its origin to an Old English word meaning “springtime” which is appropriate to the time of the year in which it falls. While the practice of Lent may not be Scriptural per say, the discipline of fasting is found throughout its pages as a sign of remorse or the readying of a person/people for a significant task.

  • Exodus 34:28 – “So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights. He neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.”
  • Nehemiah 1:4 – “As soon as I heard these words I sat down and wept and mourned for days, and I continued fasting and praying before the God of heaven.”
  • Joel 2:12 – “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;’”
  • Matthew 4:2 – “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.”
  • Acts 14:23 – “And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed.”

For the Christian community, these forty days of Lent should be a time of remorse and genuine repentance in order that we might be a “Resurrection People” come March 31. That is our special task! We are being readied during Lent for the work of bearing witness to Jesus’ Resurrection. Lent makes room in our lives much as “spring cleaning” does in our homes. However, this “cleaning” is not automatic and does not occur without action on our part. Our part is to voluntarily surrender those habits and attitudes which do not conform to the image of God in our lives. Yes, I said “habits and attitudes.” That, without a doubt, goes beyond a chocolate bar, cup of coffee, or the addition of devotional reading. God desires for you and me to surrender our sin, to give up those practices of commission and omission which have become far too characteristic of our lives. Not only does God desire for us to submit these areas of our lives to God, God also wishes for us not to revisit them after the weeks of Lent. You might say, “God wants us to practice Lent for a lifetime.”

Journeying Toward Easter,
The Reverend Kelley Smart