As hard as it seems to believe we will soon be in the season of Lent. Lent is the period of six and one-half weeks (40 days not counting Sundays) preceding Easter. Perhaps because Lent has traditionally been observed as a period stressing prayer, fasting, study, and spiritual reflection, most of us may not look forward to Lent with the same anticipation we have for Advent. Still, if Advent is important for our preparation to celebrate Christ’s birth (not just prepare for the Christmas holiday) why shouldn’t we be equally excited about this opportunity to focus and prepare to celebrate our Lord’s resurrection? If it wasn’t for the Easter miracle, it is very unlikely we would celebrate Christmas.
Since Lent remembers and follows our Lord on the road to the cross, this is the ideal season for us to think about the cost of discipleship and renew our commitment to follow Jesus. This theme alone makes Lent a very important season. In Luke 9:61 one would-be follower said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." Jesus also said, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will save it.”
Jesus taught there is no “almost discipleship.” The following quote from Tim Hansel’s book When I Relax I Feel Guilty put this thought into perspective for me.
“I was almost your person today, Lord. Then I thought what it would have been like if Jesus had done the same thing. What if God had almost revealed himself in Jesus Christ? What if Christ were almost born and almost lived and almost died? What if he would have said, ‘Ask and it will almost be given you; seek and you will almost find; knock and it will almost be opened to you?’ What if he would have said, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will almost give you rest?’ And what if Jesus had told his disciples, ‘For whosoever would save his life will lose it, and whosoever loses his life for my sake will almost find it?’
My Almost Christianity took on a much different light. I realized how many times I had played the game of being one of Jesus’ “almost disciples.” I recalled how many times I had prayed almost believing and walked through my days as if he were almost risen.
It was not a question of theology. It was a question of lifestyle. Whether or not I had a lifestyle that could match what I said I believed, whether or not, as some have said, I could walk my talk.’
Lent is the season where we consider these questions and practice our serving and following. The spiritual disciplines practiced during Lent may be very difficult for us. If this is so, then we need to practice them even more and gather with the community of faith for encouragement and help. Join us for worship. It will be great to see you there.
In Christ’s Service, David