Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lent: A time for Focusing


The liturgical season of Lent (the word originally simply meant Spring) is the forty days (plus six Sundays) preceding Easter during which Christians are encouraged to fast (do without) from certain worldly comforts (traditionally meat) and to focus on the meaning of Jesus' suffering (passion) and death. It is a time of spiritual focusing in preparation for the most significant Holy Day of the year: Easter.

Many choose to fast from certain foods during Lent. Foods such as desserts, coffee, soft drinks or red meat are popular choices. Others choose to fast from television or internet surfing. The idea is to do without something that one enjoys in order to focus on spiritual things. How does doing without red meat (for instance) help us to focus on spiritual things? Simply put, when we deny ourselves an indulgence we feel it either physically or emotionally. And when we are feeling the "hunger" for this indulgence we ordinarily grant ourselves, it can be understood as an offering to God, a sacrifice (in the Old Testament tradition) that we make to show our love and devotion to God.

While fasting from certain things, I always encourage a Lenten discipline of ADDING a spiritual discipline to one's routine. Spending time in prayer every day (if one is not already accustomed to doing so), or adding another spiritual discipline (fasting, Bible reading, serving others, etcetera) will help one to focus on spiritual things. The idea is to so prepare ourselves that Easter Sunday greets us with exceptional joy and relief! Think about how good a slice of pork roast would taste after 40+ days of not eating any meat! When we long for the Lord as much as we long for a hamburger we are approaching the attitude expressed by the psalmist who wrote "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for You, O God" (Psalm 42:1).

So beginning with Ash Wednesday (Feb. 25) when we are reminded of our mortality (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) and through the 40 days of Lent (plus six Sundays), culminating with Holy Week, I encourage you to fast, pray, focus and grow in your walk with the Lord. It is a holy time. Use it wisely!


Pastor Glen

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