Today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of the season of Lent. As Southern Baptists, we are not a people who have spent much time observing the liturgical year. We celebrate Christmas in a big way, but Easter and Holy Week seem to pass right by our radar, skimming just the surface of this very meaningful time of year. While the birth is very important, Holy Week and Easter is the celebration and culmination of what God has done in our lives. It is the heartbeat of who we are as Christians. It is the time that God revealed His ultimate plan of redemption for His children.
A blog this morning caught my eye. It was entitled “Giving up chocolate and beer for Lent is not what Jesus had in mind.” I read the blog with great interest. The blogger talked about seeing all the Facebook comments about what everyone was going to do for Lent. “I’m gonna give up chocolate or alcohol.” “Giving things up is ridiculous. God wants us to live, fully live. This whole practice is stupid.” I’ve seen them today as well. “I’m giving up sugar.” “I’m giving up meat.” “I’m giving up Facebook.” I’ve seen the card also that says “I believe I’m getting closer to God by spending a few weeks not eating M&Ms.” Ha! Sounds a little crazy, doesn’t it?
The blogger points out, however, that all of these statements are about “me. They have very little to do with what God might be doing, but about something that I’m doing. Each of these responses betrays a belief that I am the one in control, that I am the one, ultimately, who matters.” Bingo. Well said.
Richard Rohr says, “Resurrection takes care of itself. It’s getting people into tombs that’s hard. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, most contemporary people, both liberals and conservatives, abhor boundaries.”
Lent is the time that we can use the Spiritual Disciplines of the Holy Spirit to help us in our relationship with God. It is a time for deepening that relationship and seeking greater meaning in our lives. Through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving, it helps redirect our thoughts to the right place. It challenges the “me” thinking that is so prevalent, and culturally acceptable, in our society. As our church body begins to move forward within the next few weeks, it has occurred to me that it is providential that it is during this season that we do so. Next week we join together in a week long time of prayer and fasting. You may choose to fast just one day, or even one meal. But it is a time where we gain a heightened awareness of what God is doing and what He wants to do in each of our lives.
Observing these practices will change us. They will make the cross all that more important. They will make the blood sacrifice all that more meaningful. And they will make the resurrection all that more exciting. Yes, they will change us. And after all, that’s what God wants to do anyway.