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Pray, Fast, Give

Lent is the 40 day season when the Christian Community takes on and gives up "comforts" as a way to engage the trials that Jesus experienced in the desert before he entered his public ministry.  Historically, Lent is the time when those who want to become members of the community prepare to enter into this new life in Christ.  In the early church, catechumenates (those receiving instruction in the basic doctrines of Christianity before admission to "communicant" or regular membership in a church) were brought into an emersion experience during Lent that was more like boot camp and less like Sunday School. This was all in preparation for them to leave their old selves behind and be born again with Christ. 


Now days, we might give up chocolate or swearing, take on a daily devotional practice, or join a special Lent program at church during Lent.  We might commit to be in worship for the season, or doing something else that symbolizes our commitment to walk the Jesus Way. I do something every year that takes me into the season of reflection and repentance, but I am wondering about the original intention of this time and what we might learn from it today.


In the early church, membership only happened once a year. It was a major event in the life of the Jesus people. Catechumens were kept together for teaching and formation during those 40 days. They were restricted from most rituals, including worship. Holy Week was especially challenging, with the three days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday being a time of sequestering, fasting, praying and examination. If the person passed the test, they would be baptized by emersion Easter morning, joining the community as a new person, resurrected with Christ.


This process is still reflected in the Catholic traditions of becoming a member of an Order. Some of you may know what this feels like first hand. For the rest of us who have only ever known the Protestant ways of joining a church or observing Lent, the rigor of this historic time of preparation probably feels like an unnecessary relic of an age long past. And yet, we in the modern Protestant church still hold onto the thread of this idea because it holds a powerful truth that I try to remember each year.


That truth?


The way of the Cross, the Way of Jesus, is a way of death and resurrection. It is the way of letting go, of giving up all that defines us, that gives us worldly power, that we think we are, so that God can do something new in and through us. The truth that Lent invites us to remember, to pray about, to fast with, and to give ourselves over to, is the truth that we cannot serve two "Masters". (Matthew 6:24-26) We need to take stock of where our time and attention is centered, how we spend our resources, the ways in which we prioritize our self interests over the interests of the Common. (Acts 4:2) And the other truth is that our world needs our clarity now more than ever. To be clear about the Jesus we follow - the Prince of Peace, the Prince of Comfort, or the Prince of Judgement - we need to make time and engage a practice that invites us into a deeper period of reflection from which we are better able to be "born again" with Christ at Easter, better able to love our neighbors as ourselves, (Matthew 22:39) better able to help build the Beloved Community "on earth as it is in heaven."


For Holy Week, I will not be sequestered and fasting, as I think you would like me ready and able to lead the various activities planned for that week. But will still not be drinking coffee, I will be reflecting on the daily devotion in a wonderful Parker Palmer Lent book, finishing up the Wednesday night "Playing with Grief" series, and adding fasting from social media during Holy Week. (Care to join me?)


And, I know many of you are engaging in your own journey of preparation so that we, as a congregation, can be resurrected in Christ together on Easter morning. Regardless of how you engage prayer, fasting and giving this Lenten season, I am grateful to be sharing the trail with you.


May God bless our journey as we walk the Jesus Way this Lent.


Pastor Robin

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Janet K
Janet K
Feb 24

I am giving up impatience hoping to turn that into a habit.

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Office
Feb 26
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