Let's just talk straight for a minute. You can tell a lot about a person's Christian background by this issue of Lent. If you asked me about it as a kid, I would have made some reference to the trap in the dryer... or my belly button. As an Evangelical, Lent wasn't something for us. The whole concept of ashes on the forehead or giving up chocolate was foreign to us.
Now I'm the pastor of a new church - a non-denominational church, yet I find myself with the same biases of my childhood. And yet...
Here's the thing. Lent is actually a REALLY GOOD IDEA! Let's think about it for a moment. 40 days to prepare for Resurrection Day. A time of personal sacrifice to remember what Christ has sacrificed for us. A period of reflection and refocus upon our faith. Additional times of community with fellow believers. The opportunity to practice our faith in a more public way - acknowleding our Christianity to the world around us. What's there not to like?
As a pastor of a new congregation, I recognize that in many ways I set the pace for our church. So I'm going to participate in Lent this year... even if it's mostly in my own private way. I've added a new Bible Reading Plan to my daily routine, a daily devotion by N.T. Wright. YouVersion.com has added 3 new plans just for the season. I plan on fasting a meal or two per week - and during these times I plan on spending some extra time in prayer and focus.
And just to make my wonderful (and Catholic) sister-in-law happy, I'm going to give up chocolate - though I'm not sure this really counts, since I've already been on a diet this year.
Hmmm. It occurs to me that an abstention for me would be more like giving up orange marmalade. I eat it every morning... diet or not. I LOVE orange marmalade. Ok. No orange marmalade until April 25th. Each time the waitress - trained by years of experience - places the orange marmalade before me - I'm going to say a quick prayer of THANKS to Jesus - then push the marmalade away!
I'm also going to participate in our church's plan to give away 100 free meals the day before Easter! Our version of almsgiving. Each weekend our parishioners (and me) will be bringing in groceries to the weekend church service. A fine Lenten tradition - as well as a Christian thing to do all 365 days of the year.
So that's my plan for Lent. Additional Bible readings and devotionals. Some fasting. Some prayer. Refocus. Feed the hungry. ...And no more orange marmalade.