Lent begins on Wednesday, February with an Ash Wednesday service. Ash Wednesday focuses on our sinfulness and our mortality - we’re not perfect, and we’re not immortal, both of which are part of being human. Ashes are a traditional sign of this.
Ash Wednesday is also the beginning of Lent. This is an explanation of Lent from umc.org, the official website of the United Methodist Church:
“Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry. Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.”
We can best prepare ourselves for Lent by making a commitment to a concrete spiritual practice. Here are some examples:
1. Practice the presence of God in your everyday life. This is what prayer is. Tell God what’s on your mind. Seek his help, and expect to receive it. Say short prayers throughout the day, such as “Help me”, “I thank you”, “forgive me”.
2. Give up something for Lent. Typically this is something pleasurable but not helpful. Examples might be alcoholic beverages or some unhealthy food. The point is not that these are sinful things. Rather, giving them up reminds us that Jesus gave up his life for us. The focus is on sacrifice.
3. Add something for Lent. Have a time of grace at mealtime if this is not part of your devotional life. Spend more time with family. Reach out to the poor in some concrete way through giving or volunteering
4. Fast. Pick a meal to give up once a week. Use the time to pray.
5. Read a gospel passage every day. The gospel of John is a great book to read during the week because of its personal focus on our relationship with God.
6. Attend church every week, including the special services of Ash Wednesday, Holy Thursday, and Good Friday - as you are able.
Any of these practice will help us grow closer to God. The message series during Lent will focus on building our relationship with God. I invite you to participate by committing yourself to Lenten practices and attending weekly worship.
See you in church, Pastor Eric