Luke 9: 23-24
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday.
In the days when fire was vital for cooking and heat, a major part of housekeeping was keeping ashes under control, during times when serious problems arose that housekeeping chore would often be left undone and so a person who was in mourning or suffering distress would often have ashes on his/her face. Eventually putting on ashes became part of the mourning process. Ash Wednesday is about mourning for the sin which makes the sacrifice necessary.
Lent is a season of soul-searching, a time for reflection and taking stock. In the earliest days of the Church, lent began as a time of preparation for Easter, and by observing lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness.
The last three days before Lent are sometimes called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival. This stems from the tradition of using up the household foods that would be abstained from during lent. (Fatty foods, meat – Carnival is farewell to meat)
How can we use the 40 days of lent to prepare our hearts for Christendom’s most sacred holiday?
What do we do during the 40 days to shake ourselves from business as usual to a more spiritually attuned life?
The Christian faith is supposed to be about imitating Jesus who said some radical things. We tend to want to imitate Jesus in ways that appeal to us; we pick and choose the parts of His life we will emulate based on our own sense of what is really important.
Jesus did fast and pray throughout His ministry. He did deny Himself, He did sacrifice all.
Would we be willing to go beyond the comfortable level of self-sacrifice we normally observe in order to more closely imitate Jesus; in order to prepare our hearts for Easter and the rest of our lives?
In the Lenten season, self-examination is crucial. An individual’s response to the call for purposeful reflection on one’s need for God is an important factor in choosing a discipline with which to actively observe Lent. For some, fasting is a means of self-examination and denial; yet, fasting is not an appropriate discipline for all people. The purpose of a Lenten discipline is to strip away those things which clutter one’s life or impede one from being in relationship with God. It is also a time for people to experience and reflect on the sufferings of Jesus, in light of personal sin and unrighteousness.
Christianity is about more than outward behavior, it is about the condition of the heart. We need to prepare our hearts for Easter and the rest of our lives by setting aside this time for self-examination and then where necessary, repentance and change.
III. Selfless giving.
As Christ fasted and prayed in the desert for forty days, we try to be mindful of Christ for the standards by which we live our lives, with goals of self-giving and suffering love. With such high goals, any programmatic response may seem to fall short, yet an attempt to incorporate prayer, meditation, and useful action in the path of Christ into our lives, is invaluable. Jesus wants us to give ourselves to prayer this Lenten season and throughout our journey with Him.
If people want to temporarily give up certain things for Lent as a sign of love for their Savior, that’s fine. But what Christ is really concerned about is what’s in our hearts. On Ash Wednesday, we begin that long walk to the cross, where we see just how serious and terrible our sins are. But there we also see how wonderful and deep our Savior’s love is for us. The road doesn’t end there, but at the empty tomb, where Jesus rises from the dead to prove that all of our sins have been forgiven. May God bless us as we begin our Lenten Journey. Amen!
Pastor John Punni