Lenten Reflections: Another Methodist Perspective

Lent is almost over, with March 30 marking the last day of Lent. The pastors who shared their thoughts about Lent were most generous with their time*. This Lenten Reflections post is from Pastor Carlos Rapanut of Chugiak United Methodist Church.

More than Just Chocolate

A common question that we hear a lot this time of the year is, “What are you giving up for Lent?” This, of course, pertains to the spiritual discipline of fasting that’s usually associated with, but not exclusive to, Lent. So for 40 days, we give things up sacrificially, things we love like chocolate, coffee or soda. And after Easter, we call it good, and get on with life as usual.

But Lent is more than just giving up chocolate.

A reading of Jesus’ 40 days of temptation in the wilderness usually opens the season of Lent, inviting us to go on our own spiritual wilderness journeys. It’s what Lent is all about- dealing with our inner demons so that we may come out of it as better people. Before Jesus began his ministry, he had to go through a time of purging. He had to give things up – the focus on personal needs and comforts; the attraction to worldly wealth and authority; and the temptation to show off his divine power. Jesus struggled with these temptations and learned how to give up the things that were hindrances to his life’s mission.

So Lent is a yearly wilderness journey where we confront our greatest temptations head-on and try to identify things in our own lives that we need to give up because they hinder us from fully following Jesus. These are issues like anger, bitterness, judgment, apathy and inaction, pride and control. Lent is serious soul work. It’s not a mere sentimental revisiting of Jesus’ suffering and death. It’s a season of preparing our selves to truly live.

Early in the history of Christianity, converts went through Lent as a season of purging and learning. During this time, they learned the teachings and ways of Christ and unlearned their old beliefs and lifestyles. It was a period of dying to their old selves and taking on new life in Christ. Then on Easter morning, they were baptized and welcomed into the fold. Baptism, the act of being plunged into the water and pulled back up, symbolized their dying to their old lives and rising again with Christ. They also discarded their old robes and were given new ones signifying their new life in Christ.

In order for Easter to happen, in order for new life to happen, something has to die. During the season of Lent, we are to die more and more to ourselves so that Christ may live in us. We are to give things up so that we may learn how to truly live. So really, it’s more than just giving up chocolate.

P.S. I just concluded a Lenten sermon series entitled “More than Just Chocolate” where I used Jesus’ Seven Last Words on the cross to talk about the things God may be calling us to give up, not just for Lent, but forever. When you have time, I invite you to listen to them by clicking HERE .

*But unbelievably a number of other pastors who were asked to share their thoughts about Lent, declined, promised but did not submit, or were non-responsive because they were too busy. Sadly, I hear the “pastor’s too busy” words too often, even in emails and comments from the readers of this blog. It plays a role in the perplexing drop in church attendance/membership in the 18-29 year-old group. The Internet is full of amazing references to “too busy” pastors not meeting expressed needs and requests of parishioners, or simply just ignoring them. Alaska is one of the lowest church membership and attendance, and religiously interested areas in the U.S. Church Consultant Tom Rainer has discovered through surveys and interviews that the #1 thing people are looking for when they consider churches and pastors is ‘what they believe’. The pages of this blog are an ideal place to draw potential seekers to what various churches believe and have to offer. If pastors are too busy to share their thoughts with the church seekers, it’s an opportunity lost forever. ct