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Lent: From superficial to supernatural

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Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a 40 day season of reflection and preparation in advance of Good Friday and Easter. Lent is a Christian tradition, anchored within the liturgical calendar, based upon Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his earthy ministry. In 2021, Lent begins on February 17th and ends on April 3rd. Across the Christian community, Lent is celebrated in various forms with a wide breadth of practices. These practices are designed to focus a disciple’s attention away from the distractions of their environment onto the person of Jesus and his salvific work. Fasting, repentance, self-denial and giving are common practices during the Lenten season. Although Lent is not spoken of in Scripture, a growing number of Mennonite Brethren have found participation in the tradition to be a welcome exercise of preparing one’s heart and mind for the passion week.

I observe Lent. It is for me a profitable spiritual exercise of pausing and pondering. Lent is my opportunity to move from the superficial to the supernatural; from giving up token external gestures of sacrifice to an effort of offering myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). I want my walk with the Lord during Lent 2021 to resonate with the reflection of David: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).” I mean no offence, but for me, giving up chocolates, TV or some ‘fun’ aspect of one’s life for Lent, in and of itself, seems superficial. As one submits themself to the working of the Holy Spirit, Lent is to supernaturally move the disciple of Jesus into a deep, and often discomforting, re-discovery of the soul. I aspire to shape my Lent into a robust and substantive journey mirroring David’s appeal: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”

The ancient purpose of Lent was to till the Christ follower’s spiritual soil in order that an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection would grow, a genuine acceptance of his love would spring forth, and a renewed commitment to him would sprout. Lent was preparatory, aligning a disciple’s heart, mind and body for Good Friday and Easter – for an inner spiritual death of the flesh and resurrection to a new life in Christ. In practice, the celebration of Lent is really a Holy Spirit-guided exploration of my walk with Jesus. My Lenten prayer echoes the sentiments of Joan Chittister and Mother Teresa—a renewed commitment to, and love for, Jesus.

What will the 40 days of Lent look like for me in 2021? I anticipate 40 days of…

  • Reading all the gospel narratives and asking: Jesus, what do you want me to understand about you?
  • Listening prayer, asking: Jesus, what am I to do?
  • Soul-examination, asking: Jesus, what in my life is not like you?
  • Journaling my discoveries
  • Fast from selfish motives and actions, worry, indifference, unkind words, pride, complaining, pessimism, bitterness, negative attitude and a lack of gratitude.
  • Sharing what I experience as a means to encourage and disciple another

Ultimately, my goal for Lent is both simple and challenging – empowered by the Holy Spirit, I desire to move from the superficial to the supernatural, to be more like Jesus in thought, speech, attitude and behaviour (2 Corinthians 3:18). I hope to better posture myself for the passion week. I invite you to join me on the journey.

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