Lent: God's Alchemy
Lent is coming ... and this year in particular, I am both really looking forward to - and really dreading it. Eleven eternal months ago, Lent & Covid descended upon the world in unison - and everyone, everyone - began a year-long season of dying to our desires, our needs, and for some, it ended in literal death. It has been a long, hard season - probably the hardest "Lent" many of us have undergone.
Lent is the season when we choose to die to small things (sometimes big things) in our lives, to remind us that we follow the one who opened the door to life through death. We don't just imitate him - we get to participate in this miracle of things-made-new. We need to not just think about, but experience God's upside-down economic exchange: bad for good, death for life, humiliation for glory, loss for gain. We strip down our lives to the "bare essentials," leaning into our baptismal identity as beloved, dying to anything that undermines that message.
For some of us, there will be things we can and should surrender to a mini "death" for 40 days -- testing their grip on us, making sure idols have no foothold in our life. For others of us, we don't need to give up anything "more" this Lent. So much has been taken away. But we might need to "give up" a victimized mentality about this, and embrace the chance to participate in Jesus' sufferings (Phil 3:10, 1 Pet 4:13). All suffering - whether unjust or just part of life - can be caught up in the Jesus-alchemy of love. This Lent - let us choose love.
But ... some of you may be asking ... where does it say in the Bible to do Lent?
When the Reformation came to England, how did "Lent" and other traditions from the early church (not found directly in Scripture) survive? (For a brief historical survey showing how Lent developed as a creative innovation, due to a pastoral crisis in the 4th century, read my article here.). Lent survived and has been a part of Anglican spiritual formation for 500 years due to the "normative" principle that the Anglican reformers adopted early on.
The "normative" principle said that anything that people were already practicing in their Christian faith, as long as it didn't contradict Scripture, should be allowed. (Basically - whatever feels "normal" to people - let's not mess it up). Things such as ... wedding rings, Christmas Day, and other customs that were a part of peoples' daily expression of lived faith were honored as things Christ was already using to draw them closer to him. (This was different from the "regulative" principle that others argued for - meaning that only that which Scripture specifically commanded us to do was to be allowed. If Scripture was silent about celebrating Easter, or using musical instruments in church, or reading devotionals, then they were to be forbidden as sin). Lent obviously survived, because Anglicans love this "normative" principle - giving Scripture absolute priority, but also honoring the slow ways that churches and families and individuals have developed personal and corporate ways to follow God over the years.
We will be leaning into Lent together this year, kicking it off with a service of ashes and a lecture on Ash Wednesday (Feb 17, 6:30pm family service and 7:30pm regular service -- RSVP to come next week). We will also journey with the help of the Church Calendar, with Scott Erickson's "Stations of the Cross" back on our walls, with Julia's family packs, fasting, and more. "Let us not become weary in doing good ... for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up..." (Galatians 6).
p.s. - if you missed Matt's "10 Ways to come closer this Lent," see below...
Daily Prayer (1:00pm) Seeking God’s Face & “Here I am” prayers . . .
Burning Word Wed 7:30pm Pastor Matt
Luke’s Gospel Thurs 7:30pm Sara Bowe
Weekly Lenten Groups Starting Feb 15
Spiritual Direction (Book a time) Tuesdays & Thursdays Pastor Matt
Guys Frisbee Golf Sat 1pm @ Rotary Park
Two Sunday Services Worship 9:00 & 10:30am
Prayer Ministry Andrew & Julie Ray
Friday Movie Nights Daniel Starks
Ash Wednesday Lecture Julie Canlis