In the Church, Lent is the 40 days season prior to Easter. During Lent we prepare ourselves to receive our risen Lord at Easter. During Lent we remember our mortality. We acknowledge our sinfulness. We recall our need for a savior. We repent. We turn away from the things that have separated us from God and we return to our Lord.
St. Paul wrote, “We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled with God.” Lent is about being reconciled with God. The season of Lent began in the early Church as a season to prepare those who would be baptized at Easter. It also became a time for reconciliation – a time for those who had been separated from the Church because of their sins to be brought back into communion through repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation with God and his community. This example led to the realization that all are in need of repentance, forgiveness and reconciliation with God.
Lent is still a season to seek reconciliation with God. When I was a child I thought that Lent was all about what I was going to “give up.” But fasting for the sake of fasting is not the point. Fasting is relevant only to the extent that it leads me back to God. During Lent we are called to disciplines that lead us back to God – to disciples that reconcile us to God. Some of these disciples include prayer, reading scripture, and service to others. I will say a little about each:
Prayer is the means of our relationship with God. Through prayer we open ourselves to God. We make ourselves available for a relationship. Though prayer we share our lives with God and through prayer we open ourselves to listen to what God has to say to us as well. Prayer can be done daily. It doesn’t have to take a particular form. It can be as simple as a cry spoken from the heart. One way to pray is to write a letter to God sharing with God your hopes and fear, your concerns and joys. In this way you can share your life with your Lord.
The second discipline is reading scripture. As we read Holy Scripture, we hear the witness of faith from those who have come before us. As we mediate on these words, allowing their meaning to seep into us, God will shape our minds, our hearts, and our priorities. God will shape us as his people. During Lent I encourage you to read through the gospel of Luke. As you do, you will hear God’s good news for your life.
The third discipline is giving and service. Throughout the Bible we are reminded that our faith is revealed in our actions. Because we have been blessed by God, we are called to be a blessing to others. When we give, when we share, when we serve, our lives become the means though which God is able to care for others. And when we give, our lives will be blessed also. This is because when we give, we meet Christ in the other person.
When we give, the Lord will shine the light of his life into our lives. He will be our guide, our provider, and our strength.
These are not the only Lent disciplines. I suppose that a Lenten discipline can be anything that draws you back to God. As we engage in these disciplines, the Lord will use them to shape us and change us. He will mold us in his image. We will be reconciled with our Lord. So that when Easter comes, we will be ready to receive our risen Lord.
The Rev. Sally Franklin is pastor of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Fort Mill.