Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Lenten season. I remember, having been brought up as a Catholic, going to mass on this day, and getting the smudge of Ash on my forehead that would be there for the rest of the day, as a visual reminder of the beginning of this important season.
Although I have jettisoned much of my Catholic upbringing, this is a season that can help us engage in practices which help us grow spiritually, so I don’t want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak.
Lent has been recognized as a part of the Church calendar from the earliest years of the faith, and it was often understood to be a time of preparation for baptism. Because baptism is often understood as the death and resurrection of the believer, it makes sense that the celebration of baptism would coincide with Easter.
Many people associate Lent with the practice of fasting, the voluntary abstinence from something that brings us pleasure. This has the immediate benefit of revealing our (semi?) addictions and showing us what we can live without, and how much dependency we usually place on these things. Here are some fasting suggestions:
- Fast one or two specific days a week to reflect on what Jesus gave for us.
- Give up caffeine as a way to remember our sole dependence on God.
- Get up a half-hour early every day to spend time in prayer.
- Dedicate one evening a week to serving the least of these.
- Give up eating out/coffee runs and instead donate the money to a good cause.
- Give up TV or Social Media and use the time to invest in relationships.
- Keep a journal and reflect on the ways in which the Cross and Resurrection impacts your story.
- Read through the four Gospels and focus on the themes of repentance and forgiveness.
- Find one possession a day that you don’t actually need and donate them all at the end of the season.
You can also sign up at Bible Gateway for a Bible reading plan (one week or longer) that will help you reflect on the deeper meaning of this season. The sign up link is here: https://www.biblegateway.com/newsletters/
Here are some of the plans on offer:
Journey to Easter with 22 short, daily inspirational reflections from pastor and author Mel Lawrenz. Begins on March 15.
On the Road to Calvary (by Max Lucado)
Discover the true meaning of Easter with this week-long daily devotional written by beloved author Max Lucado. Begins on Ash Wednesday, February 18.
40 Day Journey with Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A devotional journey with WW2 pastor and martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer that will both challenge and encourage you throughout the Lenten season. Begins as soon as you sign up.
Readings for Lent and Easter: A Bible Reading Plan for Lent
Read a daily Scripture passage chosen to focus your heart and mind on the message of Easter.