Lent is a season of prayer and fasting that lasts from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Traditionally, these are days that people have abstained from certain foods or pleasures. This causes us to deepen our dependence on God. These 40 days (except for Sundays) are to imitate the life of Jesus when he fasted in the wilderness for 40 days.
Some people today give up smoking, or chewing gum, or cursing, or eating meat. But it is possible that we miss the point of the season if this is all we think Lent is about. The real reason for Lent is a preparation for the death and Resurrection of Christ. It is a time of self-denial and reflection.
Through the years the tradition has fluctuated from 40 hours of fasting to 40 days. What we are to really give up is our sin. These are solemn days of penance in which we yield our lives more fully to the power of the Holy Spirit.
This is not a season to beat ourselves up: it is a time that we allow ourselves to be loved by God. It is a time to not just give up some things, but to give some things. It is a time to ask “What is God looking for from us?” In Isaiah chapter 58 the Lord teaches us what kind of fast God wants. I invite you to read and study it over the next few weeks. The acceptable fast of the Lord is about feeding the hungry, about releasing people from their burdens; it is about clothing the poor.
Yes, this season I’m considering giving up Face Book, giving up TV, giving up meat. That is fine if I can do it, but the real fast is about doing the things God wants me to do. If this season means anything, it will be that in the reflection I will hear and listen to God’s call to do something for others. If we go back and read Isaiah 58, we might get some insight into what God really wants from us as people of faith.
I hope that we all will use this Season wisely as we Listen for God and respond to God’s call in our lives.
On March 5, the first Sunday of Lent I will be leading a class in the library getting into Isaiah and specifically on chapter 58.
Use this special season to listen for God and to invite others to participate with you in worship. More people are open to a personal invitation than you might realize. People who may have not been to worship in a long time will appreciate your invitation, and there is a good possibility that they will respond to it.
Blessings to you.