We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road. – Martin Luther
I’m sitting here with my cup of peppermint – jasmine green tea, think about the journey that is about to begin. A forty-day journey through the season of Lent, which starts this Wednesday with Ash Wednesday. It is just the midpoint of the adventure that I embarked on in November with Advent and then Christmas. The trip began with the joyful preparations and celebration of the birth of a child, but now I am descending into the desert. It will be cold and inhospitable. It will be frightening and painful. But I travel with the knowledge that if I enter into the valley of dark despair that is the days of Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, I will emerge renewed in the glory and rejoicing that is Easter. I make this journey every year remembering past years and past lessons learned. It is a time of fasting, prayer, and giving; the three disciplines of Lent.
In the household where I grew up, the Lenten and Easter seasons were of greater importance than those of Advent and Christmas. My mother believed that there was no point in celebrating Christmas unless you then faced the discomfort of Lent and the joyful relief of Easter morning. The story that begins at Christmas is meaningless without the climax and resolution of Easter. This point was brought home to me when comparing the number of seasonal decoration boxes she kept. There were ten boxes for Advent/Christmas season but twenty-one boxes for the Lent/Easter holiday. Mom liked Christmas, but she loved Easter.
It was my godmother, Lorraine, who gave me the travel imagery for the church year. In a letter she wrote to me when I was in high school, she spoke of the “Great Journey.” At Advent, our traveling companions were Mary, Joseph, Elizabeth, and Zachariah. We traveled with them as they prepared for the birth of the long-expected child. At Christmas we were joined by innkeepers, shepherds, angels and kings as we rejoiced in the birth of a child promised so long ago. But with Lent, we enter a desert place with Jesus, his disciples, and the women. We feel their pain and anguish. We cry within them at the foot of the cross. We follow with hesitation the women as they approach the tomb and are filled with surprise as we discover it empty. We exult with them when they are reunited with their beloved teacher and learn he is so much more. And before he departs he tells them and us that the journey isn’t over – so now we must carry on.
I know as I experience this journey I will be asked, “What are you giving up for Lent?” While most people will respond naming a food item, such as chocolate, what you do without means more than that. “Giving something up” is part of the Lenten discipline of fasting. For the past few years, I have observed Lent by completely unplugged from the internet, except when necessary for work and writing. This year, I’m doing it a bit differently. I will not be on social media just to play. Instead, I will continue post, but I am limiting my participation to this blog and posts about faith, music, and writing.
By limiting my online time, it will give me more time for the discipline of prayer. I find in the rush of life it is too easy to let time for prayer just slip away. As part of my prayer time, I will use a Lenten calendar of sorts. I have a dish with sand, shells, and candles. Each day as I do my Bible study and prayers, I will as a stone to the display, for a total of forty. When Easter arrives, I will add a small plant. Just like an Advent calendar, it will mark the passing of days through this season.
For the last discipline, alms-giving, I am going to abstain from visiting on a daily basis (sometimes twice a day) my favorite coffee bar and the money that would have been spent on that will be donated to Lutheran World Relief.
Won’t you join me on this journey? Here are some resources I’ve enjoyed using:
This year members of my congregation, Trinity Lutheran Church in Victorville CA, are using Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith by Timothy J. Wengert. Each week reading through a chapter and discussing as a group to exam the growth of faith and our role in the church.
Busted Halo is a website for young adult Roman Catholics. It features several Lenten resources. In previous years, they have had Fast Pray Give: A Lenten Calendar Each day, like an Advent Calendar, a new devotion is made available with a challenge to fast, pray and give.
Have blessed journey and I leave you with the prayer from Martin Luther –
You are my righteousness,
I am your sin.
You took on you what was mine;
yet set on me what was yours.
You became what you were not,
that I might become what I was not.
Until next time . . .
The door is always open, and the kettle is on