Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
Most people, even those who are not active Christians, know that this coming Wednesday, March 1, is Ash Wednesday. People know about Ash Wednesday because the celebrations around the world of Mardis Gras, or Fat Tuesday, are so well-known. Mardis Gras always occurs the day before the church season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday.
However, as Ash Wednesday begins the church season of Lent, I find that the whole idea of Lent is somewhat of a mystery to people. Some might ask, “What is so special about Lent?” It is not the season of Lent which is so special. What is special is that the Almighty God gave His Son for us. During this season we gaze on the awe-ful suffering and death of the Son of God Himself. We are astounded at the sacrifice of love that takes away our sin. On Easter God’s Son rises from the dead and defeats all our enemies of Satan and sin and death. This sacrificial suffering and death of Jesus and His victorious resurrection is the most special, most important event in history! That is what makes Lent special.
Yet, today this world-saving gift of Jesus’ dying and rising is often remembered with eggs, with chocolate, and with bunnies. The danger is real that the greatest event in history could be trivialized and even forgotten.
Very simply, the bottom line is that Lent is intended as a time of repentance, as a time of preparation for the coming celebration of Jesus’ Easter victory.
Therefore, since Christians recognize the struggle of faith we have, churches around the world have used the season of Lent to remember and to observe the great love, the ultimate sacrifice, and the joyful victory of our Lord. That effort to remember and celebrate the sacrificial love of Jesus is why St. John and other churches celebrate Lent with extra worship services.
The need to remember and grow in the love of Jesus is also why individual Christians sometimes take personal steps to remind themselves of God’s saving love. Since it is our sin that made Jesus’ death necessary Lent becomes a time of repentance. Repentance is a common theme in Scripture and from our Lord Jesus Himself. Jesus begins His ministry with a call to repentance. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matthew 4:17)
Repentance is not just a feeling of sorrow over sins committed against God and others. To repent means to change, or to turn. We turn from following our sinful desires and turn toward the grace of God and serving Him. People admit their failings to God and to themselves. They turn to God for strength to live holy lives.
During this ‘penitential’ season some people make the personal commitment to give up something they like or enjoy, such as coffee, or desserts, or even chocolate. This may seem like a small sacrifice. Compared to Jesus’ enormous sacrifice, our small acts of self-denial pale by comparison. But, every time someone might have enjoyed that daily indulgence and they choose not to indulge, these Christians hope to be reminded of the greater sacrifice of Jesus. They pray God strengthens them to know His love and to live for Him.
My personal plan this year, as in many years past, is to give up TV. However, I don’t just plan to give something up. I also plan to do something positive. I plan to spend the time I would have watched TV by listening to good music and reading some good books. It is not that I think these personal actions make me more holy. But, I do hope to be more mindful of the sacrifice God has given for me in Jesus.
I encourage each of you to make an effort to observe Lent. Take advantage of the extra worship and fellowship opportunities. Take time to focus on the amazing love that led Jesus to suffer and die for our sins. Prepare yourself for the joyful celebration of Easter.
I pray that this Lent you again grow in knowing God’s amazing love and grow in your relationship with Him.
Yours in Christ, Intentionally Working to Grow in God’s Grace,
P.S. Our Lenten schedules are listed below. We REALLY need some folks to sign up for Lenten Meals!
P.P.S. Here are some pictures from the Confirmation Retreat last weekend at Victory Bible Camp. https://goo.gl/photos/kbqpNf1HJaMvvXpm8
P.P.P.S Here are pictures from Monday fishing at a favorite lake.