Lent is the seven-week season of preparation prior to Easter. It is a time for reflection and self-examination. It is a time for repentance. It is a time for returning to God, to what has been lost or forgotten. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday; this year it begins March 1. (Editor's note: you are invited to come participate in our 45-minute 7:00 p.m. service.)
We begin the season by marking ourselves with ashes, in the sign of the cross, on our foreheads. This is an act of repentance. It is also a sign of mortality. Adam was formed from the dust of the earth and it is to the earth we will all return. At our graveside funeral service we recite the words, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust; blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.” Lent reminds us of our mortality.
Typically during Lent people will give something up. This recalls the deprivation that Jesus experienced during forty days in the wilderness following his baptism. This can be a helpful reminder of what Jesus gave up for others. People give up many things for Lent. I am going to give up social media and cable news. I won’t watch cable news, news on the internet or social media. This may actually be easy as I am weary of these things. I am hoping that the break will renew my spirit. It will help me to remember that the principalities and powers of this world are not sovereign over my life. They exercise some power in my life but they are not God.
Some people will take something new on during Lent. Sometimes people undertake to a new spiritual discipline during these seven weeks. This might be additional time for prayer, extra devotional or Bible reading, or making time for Christian service. Consider taking on our all-church study, “A Disciples Path.” You may want to join a group at church. You may do the study on your own. It is one part informational, one part Biblical and one part spiritual. “A Disciples Path” is based on the five vows of membership undertaken when one unites with a United Methodist Congregation. These membership vows call one to support the congregation with prayers, presence, gifts, service and witness. Taking on this study can help remind us what it means to be in Christian community.
For Lent I will do both things. I will give up something that has been draining to my spirit; electronic media, especially cable news and social media. I will replace that with a study reminding me of what it means to be committed to other Christians. What might you give up, or take on, for seven weeks to renew your spirit and strengthen your commitment?