Lent is a multidimensional spiritual
journey. A variety of religious dynamics
converge during Lent to make it a uniquely powerful opportunity for renewal and
growth. The blessings, drawn from each discipline,
are multiplied by blending them into a mixture of private reflection and public
|Photo by Kathleen Barry, UMComm|
One dimension of Lent is our quietly secretive
withdrawal from normal activities to make room for fasting, prayer and alms-giving.
Lent invites us to give up some of our normal daily habits to make room for more
sacred enterprises, some of which may become enduring changes in lifestyle. Spending extra time in prayerful devotion
heightens our awareness of the divine presence and freshens our personal relationship
with God. Charitable contribution of our
time and resources bends our focus toward the needs of family, friends and
neighbors, clarifying our success and failure in loving others as Christ has
loved us. The more secretive we are about these aspects of our spirituality,
the more our Heavenly Parent who sees us in secret rewards us openly (Matthew 6:4,6,18).
The public dimension is also an important part
of Lent, empowering personal and corporate growth along with a witness to our
faith. The Transfiguration reminds us of
the importance of shared experiences, even of prayer (Matthew 17:1-9). While
Jesus cautions us not to be hypocritical, warning that anything done in public
has the potential of limiting the benefits, most of the events in the Gospels
and Acts took place openly. Additional worship
services, Bible studies, retreats and other group programs the Church
emphasizes as we prepare to celebrate the Resurrection serve to unite the faith
community, strengthen our witness together, and enrich our individual
Spiritual housecleaning is another crucial dimension
of Lent. Through the year, our schedules
fill with all sorts of things that diffuse our attention and detract from our
discipleship. Many of these are intrinsically
good and wholesome, but they crowd out our calling like the proverbial seed
that fell among the thorns (Mark 4:7).
Our lives can easily become cluttered with
thoughts and feelings as with material objects.
Annual renewal includes sorting and divesting of unnecessary burdens,
liberating ourselves for holiness and service.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the
renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and
perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2). ” (Romans 12:2).
Lent equips us to face ourselves honestly and
make the inward and outward changes required for reviving our spirits. At the end of these few weeks, our
self-examination leads to celebration of the new life we share in Christ. Some of the changes we make during Lent will
be lasting, while others will fade as the year unfolds. We are reminded of who
we are, where we have come from and where we are going, as we repent and
believe the Gospel (Mark 1:15).