This Sunday (February 14) is not only Valentine’s Day; it is also the first Sunday in Lent. The Lenten Season is a time when Christ’s followers prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for the observance of the highest festival of the church year, Easter (March 27th in 2016). The season of Lent extends over a forty-six day period beginning Ash Wednesday (February 10, 2016) and ending on the eve of Easter (March 26, 2016). This represents the forty days Christ fasted in the wilderness (fast days) plus the six Sundays in Lent (feast days). Holy Week is the last week in Lent beginning with Palm Sunday (March 20, 2016). Special attention is given to Holy Week because of its significance as a review of the events of the passion of Christ.
In the early church, Lent was a time of intense preparation of baptismal candidates who would then be baptized on Easter. Each church member was expected to approach Lent each year as he or she had done when solemnly preparing for his or her baptism. Lent became, then, a time for each Christian to reflect upon his/her relationship with Christ. This time of inward reflection might include the abstention of certain activities (“giving up” something for Lent) or it might entail devoting more time than usual to religious exercises such as prayer, scripturereading or some type of mission project (“doing something” for Lent).
As part of my own Lenten preparation, I often read or reread a devotional book such as An Inner Journey to Easter by Anne Killinger. Perhaps there is a devotional book or guide that you have been meaning to read or use. The Lenten season would be a good time to do so. (You might want to visit the web site d365.org.) Maybe you will join the many other Christians who will “give up” something as part of your spiritual preparation (a negative attitude, a critical spirit, a tendency to gossip, etc.). Perhaps you will resolve to “do something” during Lent such as: offering more words of encouragement to others; reading through one of the four gospels; reading the Passion Narratives (Matt. 26:14 – 27:66; Mark 14:1-15:47; Luke 22:14 – 23:56; John 18:1-19:42); writing letters of appreciation to folks who have blessed your life; visiting a shut-in or homebound person; volunteering in a mission or ministry endeavor (such as at the Mission Lexington Dental or Medical Clinic or at the ROC); participating in our Winter Mission Blitz day on March 5; or resolving to participate faithfully in Sunday Bible study and worship.
Between now and Easter, I encourage you to spend some time reflecting and working on your relationship with Christ. May the next several weeks be a meaningful time of spiritual growth and reflection for our church family as we prepare to celebrate Easter.