Lent: Fasting

The season of Lent for many years was described as a season of repentance and fasting. Many folks who may know little about Lent know of the practice of fasting from someone asking, “What did you give up for Lent?” Lent is this time of our Christian year when we are challenged to do with less, to return to simplicity and reflect on our lives, repenting of our failures, sin, and shortcomings.

Fasting plays a large part in this equation. When we hear of this practice of fasting, any number of thoughts can come to mind. Fasting is largely misunderstood and too often neglected in our faith communities. Fasting is a conscious decision to abstain from eating certain foods for a period of time. This seems to be understood. Where I find many people missing the point is when it comes to the purpose of holding a fast.

Fasting is not about earning God’s favor, or turning up the heat on our prayers, or attempting to gain something from God by neglecting food (or worse, losing weight). Fasting is not a means of gaining attention; fasting is a sorrowful response.

As we survey the Bible and look at fasting throughout, by and large we see fasting as a response to a new calling, tragedy, sin, or loss. Fasting is most often paired with repentance. Fasting is a physical demonstration of a person’s serious desire to seek a new direction, a change of mind, and a transformation of heart.

Lent is a time for fasting. A time when we reflect and are sorrowful over our sin. A time when we demonstrate our sorrow by acknowledging it in the confession of our sin and by our practice of a fast. Will you keep a blessed Lent? Will you enter a fast?


Lenten Prayer 1

The following prayer is one you could add to your daily prayers this week as you continue to keep a blessed and holy Lent.

We thank you, Father, for those days in the desert when through prayer and fasting, Jesus discovered your will for his life and overcame the temptations of the evil one. Help us during these days of Lent to come close to you and to listen to your voice. Give us strength to overcome the temptations to please ourselves and live life without you. Teach us your way. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Dawn to Dark, p. 243


Lent: Surrender

For I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.   John 5:30b

If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word.   John 8:55b

…but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.   John 12:49

Yet not as I will, but as you will.    Matthew 28:39b

The words of Jesus are revealing of the posture with which he came and lived among us. They are reflective of a surrender and submission to the first person of the Trinity. There is no questioning what moved, motivated, and molded his actions, priorities, and words. Jesus came to represent and reveal the one who sent him. Jesus was clear about that and completely faithful to the mission that brought him from heaven to earth.

The will of the one who sent him didn’t only inform his teaching, his way of living, and the shape of his public ministry; it demanded he walk to Jerusalem to be betrayed, accused, tried, tortured, and crucified. The walk to such a fate demands great trust, total surrender, and a submission that few of us could ever fathom. Despite this, we are invited by Jesus to join in following his will and way.

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.   Luke 9:23

Numerous have followed, many to the same fate as Jesus, willingly giving up their lives. In this season of Lent, we must confront our tendency to demand our rights, to cling to our way, and to impose our will. During this season of forty days of repentance, will we be molded by the way of our Master? Will we be willing to submit to this denial of self, that we might find our new way in the new life of following Jesus?

May this be our prayer over the coming days: Not mine, Thine. 

Let us keep a blessed Lent.


Lent: Waiting

Forty is a number that emerges a number of times in our Scriptures. Forty days and nights Noah is in the ark; forty years Moses spends in Midian as a shepherd; forty years Israel wanders in the wilderness; and Jesus spends forty days in the wilderness following his baptism in the Jordan. In each case we are confronted with this number, 40.

In each instance the subject is in a period of waiting. Noah, Moses, Israel, and Jesus all face this time of preparation by waiting, reflecting, repenting, and being renewed for what is to come. It is a necessary transitional time—between here and there—that is to ready those waiting for a new thing, a new beginning, a new chapter.

Lent reflects all of that. It is a period of forty days (not counting Sundays) beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, or Easter. It is during this time that we attempt to rid our lives of distractions and our surplus to enter a time in the wilderness and all that entails: facing ourselves, God, temptation, simplicity, and demanding faith. It is a time we await the celebration to come but soberly ensure we are following Jesus and taking up our own cross as he instructs.

Will we enter into this time to wander in the wilderness to listen to our lives? To simplify our days, that we might be less distracted and more attentive to God’s presence and promptings in our everyday? Will we take time to be pruned and purified, growing more and more into the likeness of the One we claim to follow? Will you wait and keep a blessed Lent?


Lent: The Litany

 

 

Lent is an Anglo-Saxon word that, when best defined, means spring. Each spring (or late winter) comes another season of the Christian year, the time of Lent. Lent is the most solemn of the Christian seasons. It is a time for serious reflection, repentance, and renewal. We need seasons like Lent to call us to slow our pace of life and take time out for reflection, meditation, quiet, and repentance.

I don’t often plan well. This Lenten season, I have decided to observe an old practice of praying the Litany at least once a week. The late Robert Webber suggested Saturdays in his book The Prymer, and that is what I plan to do.

The Litany is a l-o-n-g prayer. It is really a prayer service. I use a version (without the invoking of the saints) from An English Prayer Book. In this version of the Litany it is a seven-fold prayer that progresses thus:

  1. Inviting God to hear us
  2. Personal repentance
  3. Personal petitions
  4. Intercessions on behalf of others
  5. The Lord’s Prayer
  6. Corporate repentance
  7. Benediction

It is a wonderful prayer. It helps us repent; change our way of thinking; see with new eyes; find our proper position and place in God’s kingdom again.

This Lenten practice, setting aside and taking time to reflect and repent, is something I realize I don’t naturally move toward. I am more likely to keep going and put mistakes, misplaced words, and sins under foot. Lent calls us to stop and reflect on who we are becoming and how we are living. This is good. Maybe you would take up praying the Litany each Saturday of Lent.

A copy of the Anglican Litany:  http://www.churchyear.net/anglitany.html

The version I am praying is found in this book: An English Prayer Book

A blend of the 12 stations of the cross and the prayer path for teens.


On the Eve of Lent

Tomorrow begins the liturgical season of lent. This is a forty-day season of preparation and repentance that precedes the Feast of the Resurrection of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. Before we feast, though, we are called to fast, and before we celebrate newness of life and the power of God, we are called to let go, surrender, and remember the humility of our Lord. This season of Lent I invite you to enter into this journey of letting go, surrendering, and remembering the humility of Christ and how he modeled walking steadily toward Jerusalem to fulfill the will of his God.

This season, will you intentionally alter your living and rhythms to go with less, surrender more, and discipline yourself to be more aware of bending to the will of your God?

It may take the form of a fast, flexing your schedule to allow for times of silence, observing the hours, committing to serving regularly at a mission or soup kitchen; the options are varied. One observance I am going to add to my practice of Lent is daily praying the following:

I beseech you, Jesus, loving Saviour, to show yourself to all who seek you, so that we may know you and love you.

May we love you alone

and desire you alone

and keep you always in our thoughts.

May love for you possess our hearts.

May affection for you fill our senses

so that we may love all else in you.

 

Jesus, king of glory

You know how to give greatly

and you have promised great things.

Nothing is greater than yourself; we ask nothing of you but yourself.

 

You are our life

our light

our food

and our drink

our God

and our all.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, our all in all, Amen.

(From:  A Celtic Primer compiled by Brendan O’Malley)

May we keep a holy Lent.



Six Traits to Emulate: (6) Missional

A line that caused my heart to soar as a child, I read in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe: “Aslan is on the move.” A hopeful, mysterious, yet purposeful sentence that tells the reader a hero is coming with the power to change things.

Likewise, our God is on the move. The mission of God is to bless all the nations through people he has chosen, redeemed, and made his very own. This missional aspect of God is part and parcel of what makes God, God. The actions of God are motivated by pure holiness, love, faithfulness, and goodness. God is on the move in our midst to bring about his restorative and redemptive mission.

Because we are made in God’s image, we discover we have this desire and unction to do something. It can reveal itself in ambition, courage, greed, and/or valor. We often find ourselves with goals and agendas and plans; dim shadows when compared to God on the move. Our souls are satisfied, hopes restored, and our lives filled with energy when we lay down our plans for the mission of God. When we finally hear the call, glimpse evidence of God’s activity, and join in the mission of the restoration of God’s kingdom, we uncover our identity as children of God, made in his image.

Maker and Messiah, we recognize your hand has both made us and made a way for us to return to you. We are your workmanship created for good works that will continue to reveal your kingdom reign. Yet in our everyday lives we have been more concerned with our own passions and pursuits, our own dreams and desires. We confess that we have sinned against you by putting our ways above your ways.

God, we need you to change our minds and mold our lives that we might again chase your heart and handiwork. Thank you, gracious and good God, our Savior. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 109]


Six Traits to Emulate: (5) Presence

 

 

Yahweh.

I Am that I Am.

Emmanuel.

God with us.

The way in which God has been revealed, from God’s names and the Scriptures, one thing we can know is this: God is present tense. God is in the moment. God is near. God is present. God doesn’t miss our point, fail to hear, or miss our moment because of being otherwise occupied with thoughts of the past or plans for the future. God is. God is here. God is now. God is here and now.

While we can’t be everywhere present, we can reflect the present-tenseness of God by being in the here and now. We can demonstrate God’s presence by paying attention to the present moment. I often find myself missing what others are saying (and not saying) because I am caught up in myself rather than being in the present tense. I focus on the past or the future to the neglect of being fully present in the here and now. Thus, I fail to emulate our God by being with others in the present.

The challenge for me (and maybe for you) is to settle into the present moment. There is a joy and freedom to being in the moment. There we find the Divine. There we find ourselves. There we find the opportunity to be with others. There, in the here and now, we find life.

May we be present today in each moment, here and now.

As we wake this day, we awake in your world and in your presence. Help us rise from the slumber of our own selfish whims and willful ways to a new alertness, being more fully aware of your purposes for this day. Help us desire to stay near to your heart, your concerns, and your love. Amen.

[Dawn to Dark, p. 83]


Who put the FUN in Fundraising?

We don’t know who decided to put the word “fun” in fundraising but it was one sick joke! But for many youth workers fundraising is no fun and no joke. It is a necessity in order to raise money to pay for the youth ministry. And we typically find ourselves at some point along a spectrum of philosophies regarding fundraising in our local churches. On the one side the church views it as essential and the job of the youth leader. On the other side of the spectrum people view it as necessary and the responsibility of parents and other adults (This is youth workers preferred view.). Yet the reality is that most of us experience a view that’s between the two poles.

Here are some tips to help navigate that middle terrain.

  1. Make it Explicit: Help your adults and parents invested in the ministry to teens to articulate their feelings and views on fundraising. Work with them to set down some general guidelines (financial goals, types of fundraisers, number of fundraisers a year, duration of fundraisers, etc.). The guidelines will help so that you don’t always feel like you’re over demanding or under requesting when it comes to raising money for the youth ministry.
  2. Get Help: We suggest to get help from both adults and teens. Ask a teen and an adult to tag team the administrative work for fundraisers. It gives them time to bond and may equip the teen with new life skills.
  3. Tell Everyone: Fundraising needs to be an issue the whole church deals with because the youth ministry is not just your ministry but the ministry of the church. Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to spread the word. Tell everyone and their grandma (especially their grandma) that funding ministry to teens is the responsibility of the whole church. And don’t forget to tell them it is FUN!
  4. Types: Generally “individual-type” fundraisers make more money per person than do “group type” fundraisers (car washes, bake sales, etc.). However don’t discount the fact that a lot of “youth group” happens at these car washes and bake sales. There is something to be said about everyone working together even if you don’t make as much money as an individual fundraiser.
  5. Selling Stuff:Selling items for fundraising can cause pain emotionally and financially. Here are some tips to avoid both.
    1. Before you sell stuff in the public schools make sure that it’s OK.
    2. Only sell things that give 50% or more profit.
    3. Only sell things on consignment or that you can pre-order.
    4. Check local wholesalers for a better deal before going with fundraising companies.

[photo credit: hodgers]