Wednesday, February 22, 2012

What Does Lent Mean to You?

Coming from a protestant faith, we didn't do too much for Lent, when I was young. The reflection was saved for Holy Week with a service on Palm Sunday evening with community churches. Maundy Thursday depicted the last supper with Jesus and His disciples in our own church when we welcomed the communicant members. Good Friday could have a service, but I remember just playing outside on that day when I was younger elementary age. It did seem to rain in the afternoon most years.
Easter Sunday morning, the first sunrise service I went to I believe in eighth grade with the Hatches. Easter was in March that year and snowy. We drove out to Lebanon Church on St. Route 318 toward Mercer. The ministrium supported a sunrise service at various churches with a different preacher.
My Roman Catholic friends almost always gave up candy for Lent. I didn't see the point and not being critical, I don't think they did either. They never elaborated on the reason for their denial of chocolate.
In ninth grade, I decided to fast a meal during Lent, on Wednesdays. I felt closer to God, but I wondered what I was to do with my lunch ticket. It seemed I couldn't give back the sacrifice due to no one seemed hungry enough to need an extra lunch.
One year, I heard, it's not what you give up, but what you take up. This encouraged protestant Christians to do acts of kindness, pray more, read your Bible more. I thought this made more sense than not eating chocolate.
A church I attended in Connecticut, a United Methodist, observed more ancient practices. They actually put ashes on a forehead at the Ash Wednesday Service, if you chose. I didn't. At the time, that didn't feel right to me. They had a noon service on Good Friday, starkly solemn. Saturday evening service lead to an Easter Vigil. New members joined the church, then volunteers signed up to pray in the chapel all night on one hour shifts. I did mine around midnight, I believe. A devotional book sat there with prayer requests to help with the hour. I liked the knowledge that people prayed through the night.
Two years ago, Katie and I went on a liquid fast for the forty days of Lent. But the old secret is Sunday is a day off. Sundays are mini resurrection days allowing a celebration. I think of the verse that says the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, lives in you, and maybe we should never fast on the day set apart to celebrate that.
I think Protestants have a rich, though loosely organized, following of Lent. I also have noticed that awareness of this season is growing in this circle. I see nothing wrong in employing a practice to spend more time with Jesus. We reflect on His sacrifice, suffering and death. Our old selves are to die, so yes, we can be raised with Christ. That is something on which to spend time thinking.
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