By Rev. Dr. Frances Bryant-Lowery
This is the first in a series of Lenten posts. Be sure you’re subscribed to the blog to receive all the posts as they’re scheduled.1 John 2:16 (Amp)
It feels like we’re suddenly in the season of Lent! I say “suddenly” because it seems as if time has truly begun to “fly!” It seems like just a few days ago that we were exchanging gifts and enjoying family gatherings and the traditional food-fare of that festive season during which we celebrate the birth of the Christ-Child. Yet, now we find ourselves in the Season of Lent!
As you probably already know, Lent this year began Wednesday, March 1st, and ends Thursday, April 13th, on Maundy Thursday. It is a forty-six (46) day period beginning Ash Wednesday; a season set aside for reflecting and preparing one’s self before the joyous Easter celebration. This period of self-reflection and personal preparation began in the 4th century. It is actually a 40-day period (Sundays are excluded because they are considered to be mini-Easter celebrations of the Resurrection) for Christians, replicating the 40 days Jesus withdrew and spent fasting in the wilderness, where he was tempted by our arch-enemy, Satan. It was in the wilderness that the Son of God prepared for his call to serve; his call to a sacrificial ministry.
As followers of Christ, sinners saved by grace, we are invited by Christian tradition “to a time of repentance, fasting and preparation,” according to the United Methodist Church article, “What is Lent and Why Does it Last 40 Days?” During this time of reflection and self-examination, many of us choose something to fast or give up–a personal sacrifice, if you will, until Easter or Resurrection Sunday.
In Luke 4:1-13, we find the scriptural account of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, which followed his baptism by his cousin John the Baptizer. Jesus fasted for 40 days and when he encountered the enemy Satan, he was hungry. The Enemy, wanting to have control over Christ, tried to tempt him in three different areas. In 1 John 2:16 (Amplified Bible), the writer describes the three areas, which actually comprise our human make-up, as “…the lust of the flesh (craving for sensual gratification) and the lust of the eyes (greedy longings of the mind) and the pride of life (assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things) – these do not come from the Father but are from the world (itself).”
Jesus rejected the tempter’s attempts to entice him with what already belonged to Christ by virtue of his relationship to God! Jesus’ response to God’s call to service led to a costly sacrifice.
What will you do to observe the season of Lent this year? What sacrifice will you make? What will you give up? What will you “pass” on? Many of us have chosen a fast “from” things we felt (or were convicted of) that we indulged in: sugar, chocolate, caffeine, desserts, television, or other pleasurable behaviors. My friend Edith loved imported gourmet dark chocolates. She refrained from this sweet indulgence. She “passed” on them during Lent. But how many of us have ever considered a fast “to”…? How about you? What about a fast “to” spend time with or to look for a way to be a blessing to the least, the lost, the lonely, the sick, the afflicted? Jesus fasted and made a personal sacrifice to prepare himself for ministry, for his special calling, for his personal sacrifice of comfort and ease in order to make a difference in the lives of others…to do for humanity that which we could not do for ourselves. The cost was enormous, but the benefits for followers of Christ are out of this world!
Suggested resources for Lent:
- Journey with Jesus through Lent, by Glenn E. Porter, Sr. (Judson Press)
- On the Cross Road: Journey through Lent, by Joan Trusty Moore (Judson Press)
- Tempted to Leave the Cross: Renewing the Call to Discipleship, by Rev. Ernest Flores, with Lenten Study Guide (Judson Press)–also in Spanish: Tentado a dejar la cruz: Renovando el llamado al discipulado
- From Sacrifice to Celebration: A Lenten Journey, by Evan Drake Howard (Judson Press)
- Daily Prayers and Reflections: www.My Catholic-life
- Lenten Bible Study, A Brief Women’s Bible Study for Lent: www.walkingwithpurpose.com
- Bible Study for Lent 2017–Spirit-filled Life, Crucified Life, Resurrected Life Church-wide Campaign