Posted by: Philip Rushton | February 17, 2015

Lent: An Invitation To A Season Of Spiritual Renewal

One of the things I appreciate about the church year is that it gives us regular re-entrance points to the life of faith. We have a tendency to lose momentum, get distracted, or simply drift away from God. Since this seems to be part of our human condition it is helpful for us to have seasons where we can refocus and start fresh.

Tomorrow we begin the season of Lent. Lent is the forty day period (not including ashcrossSundays) that leads up to Easter. Historically this has been approached as a season of spiritual refocusing and renewal. It is a time when Christians around the world recover some of the spiritual practices of the faith and begin to re-prioritize their life around Christ.

To facilitate your journey through the next forty days, I thought I would put together few suggestions for how you might make this season a meaningful time of spiritual renewal. Not all of these suggestions will be right for everyone, but I’d encourage you to prayerfully consider how you might incorporate some spiritual practices into your life between now and Easter.

1. Prepare

Intentionality is important in the spiritual life. As you approach Lent, I’d encourage you to write out your intentions and plans for the season. You may also want to mark things out on your calendar or smart phone so you will have reminders. You can also prepare for the season by setting up visual symbols at home or work.

Ideas:

  • Wear a cross / or put a cross on your wall
  • Set out a candle to be lit during meals or during prayer time.
  • Put out an open bible on your coffee table.
  • Set-up daily prayer reminders on your smart phone

2. Pray

Consider setting aside a time each day to pray and meditate on scripture.

Ideas:

  • Read through a short section of Luke 9:51-24:53 each day and journey with Jesus to Jerusalem
  • Read Chris Seay’s 40-day Lenten devotional: “A Place At The Table.”  You can order it here.
  • Listen to the daily podcast: pray-as-you-go.org
  • Take a one-day prayer retreat. See me for a guide.  Mt Angel Abbey and Our Lady of Guadalupe Trappist Monastery are local spots that work well for a retreat.
  • Go for a walk in the evening and review the day in prayer.  Thank God for the various blessings of the day and confess to him the ways you failed to follow him faithfully. 

3. Fast

St Benedict once wrote, “nothing is so inconsistent with the life of any Christian as over-indulgence.”  Fasting is important in a culture that is shaped by excess.  Marjorie Thompson suggests that fasting is a practice that helps us restore “life-giving limits.” It is a spiritual practice that aims to set us free from unhealthy attachments and addictions and to help us remember God and remember the poor.  For a fuller explanation on the history, purpose and significance of this spiritual practice check out my post from last year titled: “Fasting: Restoring Life Giving Limits.”

Ideas:

  • Give up meat and eat a simple diet of beans and rice on Fridays, to stand in solidarity with the poor.
  • Give something up for the entire Lenten season that has become a major attachment for you. Abba Poemen, one of the Desert Fathers, recommends a small amount of fasting each day.  He says, “for my part, I think it is better that one should eat every day, but only a little, so as not to be satisfied.” 
  • Give up breakfast and lunch on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday
  • Fasting is not limited to food.  Consider taking a media fast once a week where you give up your phone or internet.

4. Feast

Historically, Christians have considered Sunday a “Feast Day” during Lent.  This is a day of celebration and of breaking the Lenten fast.  Chris Seay describes the purpose of this rhythm.  He writes,

“I implore you during this season not only to fast and identify with the poor but also to plan some parties, eat good food, and celebrate of Jesus well.  Every Sunday for believers in Christ is to be a taste of our greatest day in the Christian calendar: Easter. . .  Fasting alone is not a biblical response to poverty.  Jesus said, “Guests at the wedding can’t fast when the bridegroom is with them.  It would be wrong to do anything but feast.”  Our day of worship is a day to be present with the bridegroom.

It is important for us to find this balance between fasting and feasting.  We need to be freed from our attachments, and grow in our solidarity with the poor, but we also need to be nourished and reminded of God’s lavish grace.  The goal during feasting, though, is not to excessively indulge in food, but to celebrate and savor God’s provision.

Ideas:

  • On Sundays host a party with friends and celebrate God’s goodness
  • Slow down and enjoy a good meal rather than rush through it. Put away the phone, savor the flavors, have good conversations, and share things you are thankful for.

5. Give

While lent is often talked about as a time to give things up, Isaiah 58 reminds us that the fast God desires is for us to actively pursue justice for those in need.  How might we reach out to those in need during lent?

Ideas:

  • Clear out the clutter in your house and donate a number of items to charity
  • Volunteer at a non-profit
  • Invite a neighbor over for a meal
  • Abstain from a luxury item and use those funds to support a charity.

6. Worship

To help facilitate your Lenten journey, we will be hosting a number of extra worship opportunities at the church.  Consider carving out some extra space to worship.

Lenten Events:

  • Ash Wednesday Meal and Service (Feb 18, 6pm in the Fellowship Hall)
  • Lenten Taizé Prayer Service (March 15, 6:30pm in the Chapel)
  • Journey To The Cross (Palm Sunday, 10am)
  • Maundy Thursday Meal and Service (April 2, 6pm in the Fellowship Hall)
  • 24 Hour Prayer Vigil (April 2-3, 9pm to 9pm, sign up for an hour or two)

So what is your plan for the next 40 days?  My hope is that you will be renewed and blessed as you enter the season of Lent.

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