Get Ready for Easter: Remember to Take Time to Take a Time Out First


Lent begins February 17 this year.
Lent encourages us to look within ourselves to see how we have confused popular cultural values with Christian faith.

We need Lent!

From the very earliest times, Christians took time out before Easter to reflect on their faith, cultivate it, and prepare for a most joyous celebration of Easter.

Remembering that Jesus took 40 days off to prepare for the beginning of his ministry,
the church sets aside these 40 days prior to Easter for us to get ready.

This is a time for us to explore the mysteries of the universe, looking beneath the surface – within ourselves — examining our own motives and desires, and ascertaining exactly what our commitment is: to what, to whom, and what it means.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus went out into the desert for 40 days.
For 40 days he lived without food or, presumably water.
For 40 days he confronted his demons.
For 40 days he prayed.
For 40 days he communed with his God.

Suffice it to say, upon completion of his 40 days in the desert, Jesus had a clearer picture of his purpose in life,
of his reason for being,
of his God-given mission.
And he embarked on his course of demonstrating the reign of love on earth.

Traditionally, the church has set aside these 40 days prior to Easter as a time for personal reflection toward discovery of our purpose and renewed commitment to our faith.

Many cultures make a lot over the fasting nature of these 40 days.
Carnival is celebrated in many parts of the world the day before Lent begins as the last chance to eat meat for 40 days!
In this country Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans on “fat Tuesday” – the day before the 40 day fast begins.

Today, we see these 40 days as an opportunity to attend to the parts of our lives that we often neglect.  We are challenged to open ourselves in new ways to the Spirit’s transforming power.

Because Presbyterians rebelled against all things Catholic, Lent was never celebrated in most Presbyterian churches until  recent years.  But, Lent is such a rich time.
It is an excellent opportunity for us to really focus on things that matter.

Lent is meant to remind us that the days are getting longer –
Spring is right around the corner.
Signs of life are preparing to bud right in front of our eyes.
And,  we need to prepare ourselves to see these signs!

We need Lent!
Lent encourages us to look within ourselves to see how we have confused popular cultural values with Christian faith.
Through a sustained focus on the life and ministry of Jesus, Lent can help us resist the pressures of this culture.
Lent can remind us that we are called to continue his ministry:  “As the Father has sent me, so I send you”  (John 20:21).
Consequently, Lent prepares us for an Easter that is more than bunnies and eggs,
an Easter that begins a whole new reality – a whole new world.

From the beginning, part and parcel of the Lenten observance has been alms giving.
The purpose of fasting is not so much a bodily discipline as it is a sharing discipline.  Becoming aware of the needs of others, and responding to them with generous gifts of our time and talents and money are particularly transforming.

During this season, many of our Presbyterian Churches will be emphasizing our One Great Hour of Sharing as a concrete way of self-sacrifice for the needs of others.
The discipline of a daily gift to the One Great Hour of Sharing jar is a concrete way of focusing our thoughts on our individual purpose for living.
It becomes an expression of the faith we proclaim.