For most of my life, and all of my self-thinking life, I’ve been part of churches that would be, for the most part, considered non-liturgical. I don’t think this is necessarily a good or a bad thing, just a fact. I use the description “non-liturgical” in a sense broader than a structured Sunday service – and maybe “non-traditional” is a better phrase, but then I start flirting with the whole emergent concept.
The point I’m getting at is, maybe because of this above church setting, I’ve never paid much attention to Lent. But this season, due to a host of seemingly unrelated occurrences, I started hearing and reading more about it. It’s overwhelming to start studying the deep richness of Lent’s history, so I’m relying heavily on a document produced by The Village Church in my inaugural Lent season.
The best summary I can offer is pulled from The Village Church’s 2012 “Seasons” guide having to do with Lent.
Originally a preparation period for those desiring to be baptized, Lent eventually became embedded into Christian tradition as a season for the Church to symbolically follow Christ into the wilderness. It is a time of fasting and self-denial, though not for denial itself. It is a period to empty ourselves of lesser things so that we might be filled with the greater things of the gospel. Whereas Advent is a season of ever-increasing light awaiting the incarnation of Christ, Lent is a season of ever-decreasing light approaching the cross.
I love that concept of emptying ourselves of lesser things so that we can be filled with the greater things of the gospel. I simply have too much noise in my life, and it’s often very difficult to decipher which is noise and which is signal. In fact, that’s my one resolution this year: Filter out the noise, Focus on the signal. When I decided upon that resolution in December of 2012, I didn’t realize it would be incorporated into a season of Lent.
My adolescent understanding of Lent was simply giving up something you enjoy for a month or so. Now I see it’s not just that – it’s much deeper. And, depending on which tradition you follow, each of the six weeks you fast for 6 days and feast on Sunday. There’s an attractive rhythm to this – and it celebrates Sabbath, something else I’ve been trying to figure out how to do better. For my fasting, I’m going to modify The Village Church’s 2012 Seasons suggested fasts:
- Week 1: Food (no eating until noon)
- Week 2: Television and Movies (complete fast)
- Week 3: Social Networking (complete fast)
- Week 4: Caffeine (complete fast)
- Week 5: Radio (complete fast)
- Week 6: Sleep (one hour less each night)
I’m actually excited about some of these – the Television/Movie and Social Networking – and I know others will be less than exciting – notably Caffeine and Sleep. But I’m excited to see what God has in store. My prayer throughout the 40 days is for a larger and clearer picture of God in my everyday life. This morning I was reading in Luke 4 about how Jesus was filled with the Spirit, and led by the Spirit, during his time in the Wilderness being tempted by Satan. I never realized that before – the Spirit was with him the whole time. Each day. Each temptation. Each successful denial.
I’m hoping Lent will become a family tradition in which we all can learn and grow together through a tradition the Church has learned and grown from for centuries, and which I’m now just discovering.
Till next time, Jack.