Intentionally setting aside time to do something is a good way to build new habits. The season of Lent is a season where we try out fasting from something in order to fill our time with more meaningful things – things that make us closer to God and to our neighbors. At our Ash Wednesday service on February 26th, we talked about the ways we can wander this wilderness with new purpose and direction by following Christ more closely, recognizing ourselves as both beloved and broken, in need of God’s abundant grace.
There are so many ways we might go about this kind of purpose-driven wandering. Most obviously, we can all commit to gathering regularly on Sundays to worship and study together. Beyond Sunday morning worship, we can attend a number of different Lenten-themed studies and services: ecumenical Lenten devotional lunches on Tuesdays, midweek Lenten services on Wednesdays at noon at First United Methodist Church, or our own Lenten study during our Midweek Check-in on Wednesday nights (sign up for a great new dinner, too!).
It’s meaningful, I think, that we are undertaking a new season of discernment and prayer during this season of Lent. Our attendance at the ReShape conference and our commitment to the Making the Shift process are inevitability part of our spiritual growth, and thus very appropriate to the church season. Everyone at FBC should pick up a FREE 40 Days of Prayer guide in the narthex to read through day by day throughout Lent, both as a Lenten discipline as well as spiritual preparation for our season of discernment here at First Baptist.
Some other questions I posed for Lent during my Ash Wednesday meditation came from one of my favorite Christian writers, Rachel Held Evans. She listed 5 questions to ask ourselves for the season of Lent. I think these are good guiding questions for us as we seek to re-center ourselves on God, and I wanted to share them with you here:
- When I wake up on Resurrection Sunday morning, how will I be different? What am I preparing for?
- Is there something in my life: a habit, grudge, a fear, a prejudice, an addiction, an emotional barrier, a form of excess—that keeps me from loving God with my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself? How might I address that over the next 40 days?
- Lent is a time to listen to God, but sometimes God speaks through others, particularly the poor, oppressed, marginalized, and suffering. To whom should I be listening this season? How can I cultivate a listening posture toward others whose perspective and experiences might differ from my own?
- Is there a spiritual discipline—praying the hours, lectio divina, the examen, prayer walking, or even reading daily devotionals—that I’ve always wanted to try to make a habit? How might I alter my daily routine to include one of these disciplines? How might I reach out to learn about new traditions of devotion and worship to help me refocus in new ways?
- The cycle of death and resurrection is central to the Christian faith. In what ways is that cycle present in my life right now? Where might there be necessary change, suffering, death and decay, and how might new life emerge from those experiences?
So, why Lent? Because Easter people do the hard work of wandering, holding on to our Savior, as we focus our spirits before approaching the cross and the empty tomb. How much more will Easter Sunday mean when we have prepared our souls for it! And how much more will our own resurrection as a church mean if we are all in the preparation together. Come, let us observe Lent, let us discern, let us be Christ-followers, together.