FOLLOWING ALONG WITH THE RESONATE LENT READING PLAN: http://resonate.net/lent
Lent is a new thing for me. Or maybe I should say a “recently revisited thing,” that feels new.
What I mean is, in the sixth grade I went to a Catholic Church on Ash Wednesday and got ashes smeared on my forehead in the shape of a cross before school started. The ashes didn’t last, considering my first class was P.E. Before long, my friends were asking why I was sweating charcoal, I said I didn’t know, then ran to the bathroom and washed it off.
From ages 11-24 I took a break from Lent. I started following Jesus when I was 13, and I remember multiple years of strolling into church yawning and rubbing my eyes on what I thought was a typical Sunday before realizing that particular Sunday was Easter Sunday. Then I would run to the bathroom, splash water on my face, tuck in my shirt, and brush my teeth with my finger. (Running to the bathroom was a spiritual discipline for me growing up.)
I learned later you could always tell it was Easter by people wearing white shoes and pink ties. And church always had a lot more people than usual. And all the girls dressed up and wore hats. I should have taken the hint and gotten a pair of khakis or something. Or at least I should have worn a belt.
Anyhow, since starting our church, we’ve put effort into raising the awareness of Easter. For the first few years of Resonate, during Holy Week we set up a table in the free speech area at Washington State University and the University of Idaho in an attempt to engage the campus in spiritual conversations. We’ve passed out fliers, held events, thrown parties, and made a huge fuss about it. It’s interesting how most people don’t mind talking about God around Easter time, but don’t want to hear it in October.
In the last seven years, I have not been surprised by Easter once.
Today is Ash Wednesday, 40 days (not counting Sundays) from the blessed resurrection. Our church doesn’t just celebrate Easter anymore, we celebrate the whole season of Lent. Today, in preparation for Easter, I started a fast, just as many Christians have since A.D. 313 when a young pastor named Athanasius challenged his congregation to give up something and take on a heightened discipline for the 40 days pre-Easter.
Our church may not put ashes on our foreheads, but we are all in for the season of Lent. We believe no one accidentally gravitates towards holiness. It takes work to draw near to Christ. And discipline creates desire. So it’s our joy to participate in a season of training in the hope of being transformed. With gratitude in our hearts, we fast in pursuit of learning the discipline of dying to ourselves.
A few years ago, I gave up caffeine because I was in a place where I was depending on coffee more than Jesus. The headaches and ensuing feelings of addiction proved that to be very true.
The following year I cut back on coffee because I started running. The trouble with running is it makes you tired all the time. So the next year I gave up the snooze button. The year after that was Netflix, then social media, then coffee again. Now I have a kid who serves as a rooster, so sleeping in isn’t quite the issue.
Every year has new issues, and every year I have a chance to die to myself.
Lent is powerful. It reminds you that Easter is good to be celebrated one day a year. Resurrection power is needed now. Right now, right where we are, we need Jesus to show us He’s better. We need the Holy Spirit to empower us to change. It is God who brought us from death to life and it is God who continues to help us die to old habits and live toward new life.
So… even though sleeping/caffeine/Instagram/shopping are good things, Jesus is better. Lent is about trading the good for that which is better. Lent is a season of heightened discipline, heightened hope, heightened repentance, and it ends in a crazy celebration with your community on a Sunday called Easter.
We hope you’re participating in Lent but even more so, we hope you’re participating in and experiencing new life in Jesus and the daily resurrection power God offers through the Holy Spirit.