Ancient people were well aware of the subtle changes in the seasons. As winter began to break and show signs of spring, those in agrarian societies would take to their fields, plowing the earth and removing any dead growth and brush left from the previous year. It should come as no surprise that the early church saw in this season an opportunity for spiritual transformation. A time to venture into the depths of the soul and remove that which no longer produces life. The Church calls this season Lent.
Ruth Haley Barton writes, “The seasons of the church year are meant to teach us something about the spiritual life we need to learn.” In our modern lives, I cannot think of more important lessons than the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, simplicity and repentance. For centuries, Christians have sought to draw nearer to God and become identified with the death of God’s son Jesus by taking seriously the humble Lenten journey as preparation for the events of Holy Week.
It is my prayer that this devotional with be a companion for all of us as we walk the Lenten journey together. For the next 6 weeks, from Ash Wednesday to Easter, we will read the same stories of faith shared by those at Bayshore. We will contemplate the same scriptures and pray the same prayers. As we allow the Holy Spirit of God to continue writing our own faith stories, many of us will choose to fast or give-up something as a way of identifying with Christ who gave everything for us. Perhaps this can be our modern way of plowing the fields of our lives, cultivating the good soil where faith might grow.
As we begin this journey together, it is important to remember that these practices are rewards we seek. We do not receive any additional grace of favor from God based upon how well we practice or fail to practice Lent. Lent is simply invitations to unplug and detox from the chaos of our lives and redirect our time and energy in ways that help us to seek the presence of the God who is already present in our lives.
We prepare for Lent with a celebration. Like the ancient people before us who would fast the entire Lenten season, we feast before we fast. We call this day Fat Tuesday, and will share a pancake supper as a church in anticipation of the journey we begin on Ash Wednesday.
As we walk together towards the cross of Christ this Lenten season, may his presence become so real in our lives that we have the courage to take up our own crosses and follow him.
With you on the journey,