First Sunday in Lent

Long ago when we were mostly an agricultural society, the rhythms of the year were always before us. Planting, growing, harvesting, storing food away for the off season.

But today we tend to run our lives without those natural rhythms.

The Church Year helps us to restore the rhythm of life to our lives. We have completed the season of Epiphany, and now we move to the season of Lent.

We ate our pancakes on Tuesday, and some of us were involved in an Ash Wednesday service on Wednesday which marked the beginning of Lent. Today marks the First Sunday in Lent.

We are invited to the “observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word.”?

This Season of Lent provides us with a framework for Lent. It is not the inner journey of Lent itself. Lent is a time to simplify, to quiet our busy lives, and to look at our spiritual life as well as our relationship with God and with others. The framework can help us in this process by setting this time apart, making it feel different from our regular routines. That is the purpose of such Lenten disciplines as fasting, etc.

Some people jump into the Season of Lent with both feet, denying themselves many things their lives normally would include. They may think that this is very spiritual. However, in their eagerness they are focusing on the season of Lent, and they miss what it really is.

We can become so focused on the season of Lent that we completely neglect the inner and spiritual work of Lent. It becomes all about following the rules of Lent, not about observing a holy Lent.

Perhaps we should be more careful with our decisions about Lent.

I may take on a discipline of fasting, leaving out something in my life that will make a difference, so that I will notice it. I want to be intentional about simplifying my life during these forty days. Creating that emotional and spiritual space that is too often lacking in day to day life. I will also take something on, perhaps reading or listening to music, to help me move inward.

A discipline of fasting does not always involve food. Perhaps it is a fast of TV or even so much TV. It can be anything which will help to simplify your life and remind you that this is a different season, a different time.

You might want to consider doing some reading to help with your inward journey. Perhaps read a devotional book or read through the Psalms or the four Gospels. You might want to come to early prayer at 6:30 Wednesday mornings.

Whatever you do, by taking on or letting go, do so as a means of moving inward, not as an end to itself. And if you slip up, simply begin again. Continue your inner journey regardless of your fast. And remember, Sundays are always feast days, so whatever you gave up you can indulge in a bit on Sundays.

Above all, look to your relationships: with family, friends, others and especially your relationship with God. That is the crux of the matter in observing a Holy Lent: it is about relationship not about fasting.

May you have a Holy Lent, a time set apart, a simpler, quieter time. And may you find your relationships deepened and strengthened through these days of preparation for the Season of Easter."

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