“As people addicted to comfort and convenience, we’re often unaware of how we live to feel good about ourselves, to gain a bit of affirmation, to exert influence, to maximize our own pleasure, to satisfy our immediate needs. Lent invites us to intentionally frustrate ourselves, to engage in a season of deprivation, which actually makes us more aware of the depth of our dependence on any number of things – a substance, our reputation, control, achievement, being right, being comfortable, being secure.” (Chuck DeGroat)
The word Lent is an old English word that means springtime. Lent is the season preceding Easter and is a time when people are invited to journey with Jesus to the cross. Now, you may ask, why would anybody want to do that? A journey to the cross sounds quite unpleasant.
We do this journey for the same reason that we get our annual physical. We may not really like it but it is good to do a thorough examination in hopes of catching any illness before it becomes a bigger issue. The illness that we are looking for is what Scripture calls sin.
Sin is much more than a bunch of do’s and dont’s; sin is the twisting of good desires that occur in everyone’s life. As New York Times author, David Brooks, puts it, “The danger of sin … is that it feeds on itself. Small moral compromises on Monday make you more likely to commit other, bigger moral compromises on Tuesday. A person lies to himself and soon can no longer distinguish when he is lying to himself and when he isn’t. Another person consumed by the sin of self-pity, a passion to be a righteous victim that devours everything around it as surely as anger or greed.”
A common metaphor that others have used to describe sin is the acorn. Acorns are fairly small seeds compared to the enormous trees they grow into. According to Scripture this is similar to how sin works in one’s life. One doesn’t become a terribly anxious, raging with anger, or an over-controlling person overnight. It happens slowly over time. The seed finds good soil, and begins to sprout and grow. If you catch it while it is young it is much easier to remove than when it is big requiring much more effort to remove. The season of Lent is a time to examine one’s life to find some bad acorns that are growing in our souls.
Lent is marked by four disciplines: self-denial, self-examination, acts of compassion, and using the means of grace. Self-denial, or fasting, is frequently associated with Lent. The reason for this fasting, or “giving something up,” is not to earn brownie points with Jesus. We deny ourselves of certain goods to get us to stop distracting, avoiding, entertaining, and numbing ourselves freeing us to look honestly at our own life. Self-denial and self-examination go together because often we cannot examine our lives as we are so disconnected to how we are actually thinking and feeling. Acts of compassion are suggested because it exposes us to the hurt and loneliness in others, which often helps us have compassion on the hurt and loneliness inside each of us. The means of grace (prayer, scripture reading, communion), because we need grace for the journey. We need to be reminded again and again that whatever we confront in our self in this journey is not a surprise to Jesus. No matter how many acorns of sins and dysfunction we uncover, God is still moving toward us with his healing love and acceptance, just as he showed his love in the life and death of his Son.
The goal of Lent is, in the words of St. Paul, in fellowship with the suffering of Jesus, to better know Christ and the power of his resurrection (Philippians 3:10). Please join us on this journey. We begin with Ash Wednesday services on Feb. 10th at 1 pm and 5:30pm (childcare provided for the evening service), then every Sunday with worship at 10am, and Good Friday services on March 25th at 1pm and 5:30pm (childcare provided for the evening service). Culminating with Easter Sunday on March 27th.
March 02, 2016
"No Condemnation" Is a Big Deal
Today while we frequently encourage everyone to “just get along” we actually rarely know how to do that with people whom we disagree. We promote tolerance of views and beliefs in the abstract, but when it comes to actual day to day living we are often ruthless with those we disagree with. In the course of a week, I’m sure we’ve all promoted tolerance towards people of different religious dispositions and at the same time ridiculed those who vote, parent, or educate differently than us. And unfortunately this is often just as true within the church as it is outside of the church. This should not be so, and I think the church would do better at leading the way in love if they kept before them how Jesus cures the disease of sin, leaving it as a mere entanglement. (read more)