February 27, 2007

Lent

The church in which I was first nurtured was a typical Southern Baptist church and as such we did not pay much attention to the traditional Christian calendar except for Christmas and Easter. Nowadays many Baptist churches celebrate Advent as a way to prepare for Christmas but few Baptist churches use Lent to prepare for Easter. Lent begins forty days (not counting the Sundays) before Easter and is to be spent in careful self examination and preparation for Easter. Many people “give up” something to remind them that Israel was directed to “deny themselves” for the Day of Atonement.

One of the things that appeals to me about religious observances is that they can help us avoid a boring spiritual life. It is easy for our spiritual life to become merely habit. We plod along day to day with little passion or drama for anything religious. When we really focus in on what Jesus was about we see that his followers were more likely to be pushed, shoved, and jerked toward the kingdom than gradually nudged along. Being a Christ follower is to be an adventurer. Our heritage is one of a moving faith, not a faith of standing still.

God can and does work real transformation in our lives and we should never get so comfortable with life that we stop believing that. Lent reminds us that there is a dividing line in life, a real before and after, where Jesus Christ conquered the cross, defeat, and death to enable God to achieve his purposes for the world. Noah spent forty days in the ark preparing to start over. Moses spent forty years preparing to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and then wandered with them another forty years as they prepared to enter the Promised Land; Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness preparing for his earthly ministry. During these forty days leading to Easter, spend some time in confession, repentance, and preparation as we journey with Jesus to the Cross.