Welcome to Lent
Lent has always been a hard season for me to get my arms around; maybe it has been for you too. As I was contemplating this reality, it finally came to me that the reason this season is such a struggle is because I’m a Methodist. Think about it. Us Methodists are by nature are by nature a very social, outgoing, relationship oriented people. Granted, that’s a good thing and I for one wouldn’t have it any other way. But, here’s the thing: Lent is not a social, outgoing season. Rather, Lent is a season of personal reflection and introspection. I can only speak for myself, but for this Methodist that’s what makes Lent such a challenge.
Like it or not, though, this season that begins in ashes is meant to be a personal journey…a spiritual pilgrimage that leads us to the spiritual renewal of Easter morn. Bottom line: it’s not a social season.
There’s a verse tucked away in Second Chronicles that I think epitomizes why Lent is such a challenge for us. 2 Chronicles 7:14 says “. . .if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” Us Methodists, being the outward and social people that we naturally are, might at first glance think this verse is referring to renewal in the church; an intercessory prayer for others. But, in the spirit of Lent, I think this prayer should be turned inward rather that aimed outward. In fact, it’s penitential prayer for the faith community, for us. It’s not to call for others to repent; it’s a call for us, God’s people, to repent. It’s our land that needs healed, it’s our wicked ways from which we need to turn. We’re the ones who need to seek God’s face.
Look at it this way: the late Albert Outler, a renowned Wesleyan scholar, summarized the Wesleyan theology by saying that “the essence of our faith is inward and personal, and the evidence of our faith is outward and social.” If that’s true, and I believe it is, perhaps these 40 days of Lent is the prime time, as awkward as it may be for us Methodists, to focus on and renew the “inward and personal”. After all, if the inward and personal aspects of our faith are lacking, it will soon become evident in our outward and social relationships.
Yours in Christ,
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