Many Pastors like to meet with their congregation at the Church entrance after a service. When I engage in this practise I am often stopped by people who want to meet up for coffee or to make an appointment. My standard response usually goes something like this:
“I’d love to meet up, but please can you send me an email to remind me of this conversation and I will get back to you as soon as I can.”
My logic in this process boils down to one key factor – my brain is juggling so many thoughts at that very moment and the odds are that I will forget to call the person back. Yes it is true, even Pastors have limited space in our memory banks.
Studies have revealed that modern technology has flooded our minds in such a way, that people can receive up to 105,000 words of information during our waking hours. It is possible that we could reach a volume of 34 Gigabytes of information in just one day. That is astounding!
Believe it or not, but all of this serves as a preamble to the title of this article – The Value of Lent.
The Christian community has been remembering the death and Resurrection of Jesus since the first century. More specifically we have been celebrating the significance of the Cross and empty grave, in a formalised way, since around the 3rd Century.
So, given our history, one would assume that the Church would not need reminding of the events surrounding the epicentre of our faith, but clearly we do. As humans we are prone to forget and so Lent serves to help us hold the Passion of Christ in the forefront of our minds.
In my opinion, Easter takes on a whole new experience for a community (and the individual Christ-follower) when we have practised the discipline of Lent.
I use the phrase ‘discipline of Lent’ with reservation, but it does give us deeper insight into the spiritual journey involved. To daily remind ourselves of the joy and sacrifice of Easter is a discipline. It takes a similar kind of discipline to compete in a marathon or an ultra sports event.
You can’t expect to arrive at the start of a marathon and to have a good race, unless you have been disciplined and done the ‘hard yards’ in training. Your experience of any race is directly linked with the amount of time spent in preparing for the event. So, is it not possible that the experience of Easter could be seen in the same light?
If you don’t believe me, then perhaps the words of N.T. Wright could be more convincing.
“Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty, not because God is mean or fault- finding or finger-pointing but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.”
And so, Lent gives us the opportunity for all of these things put together:
Confession and repentance
Reflection and meditation
Fasting and surrender
Re-reading of Scripture and new insights
Comprehending the Passion of Christ
No matter what disciplines we take up during Lent, or whatever luxuries we choose to fast from, the focal point should always be connecting with the heart of God. Our desire to grow deeper in love with Jesus Christ should motivate us to commit to this journey. Yes, I agree that we must guard against turning Lent into a sacred cow and another religious event to tick off on our calendar, but it really doesn’t have to go down that road at all.
For me, the tradition of Lent is not meant to be another ‘Commandment’ or a religious Law, but in my experience it offers us a wonderful opportunity to remember the life and death of Jesus. I don’t ever want to forget what Christ has done for me and so if Lent serves to keep me focussed on the essence of God’s grace, then Lent is a journey well worth going on.
May your Lenten journey be profoundly life changing this year and may the love of Christ sustain you always.
“But after Jesus entered into his glory, they remembered what had happened and realised that these things had been written about him” (John 12:16).