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Lent: From Superficial to Supernatural
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, Lent is a 40 day season of reflection and preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Lent is a Christian tradition, anchored within the liturgical calendar, based upon Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness in preparation for his earthly ministry. In 2021, Lent begins on February 17th and ends on April 3rd. Across the Christian community, Lent is celebrated in various forms with a wide breadth of practices. These practices are designed to focus a disciple’s attention away from the distractions of their environment onto the person of Jesus and his salvific work. Fasting, repentance, self-denial and giving are common practices during the Lenten season. Although Lent is not spoken of in Scripture, a growing number Mennonite Brethren have found participation in the tradition to be a welcome exercise of preparing one’s heart and mind for the passion week.
“Lent is a call to renew a commitment grown dull…”
“Lent is a time for greater love.”
My Perspective on Lent
I observe Lent. It is for me a profitable spiritual exercise of pausing and pondering. Lent is my opportunity to move from the superficial to the supernatural; from giving up token external gestures of sacrifice to an effort of offering myself as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). I want my walk with the Lord during Lent 2021 to resonate with the reflection of David. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).“
No offence, but for me, giving up chocolates, TV or some ‘fun’ aspect of one’s life for Lent, seems superficial. As one submits themselves to the working of the Holy Spirit, Lent is to supernaturally move the disciple of Jesus into a deep, and often discomforting, re-discovery of the soul. I aspire to shape my Lent into a robust and substantive journey mirroring David’s appeal. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (Psalm 139:23-24).”
Ancient Purpose of Lent
The ancient purpose of Lent was to ‘till’ the Christ follower’s spiritual ‘soil’ in order that an understanding of Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection would grow, a genuine acceptance of his love would spring forth, and renewed commitment to him would sprout. Lent was preparatory, aligning a disciple’s heart, mind and body for Good Friday and Easter – for an inner spiritual death of the ‘flesh’ and resurrection to a new life in Christ. In practice, the celebration of Lent is really a Holy Spirit guided exploration of my walk with Jesus. My Lenten prayer echoes the sentiments of Joan Chittister and Mother Teresa – a renewed commitment to, and love for, Jesus.
What will the 40 days of Lent look like for me in 2021? I anticipate 40 days of…
- Reading all the gospel narratives and asking: Jesus, what do you want me to understand about you?
- Listening prayer asking: Jesus, what am I to do?
- Soul-examination asking: Jesus, what in my life is not like you?
- Journaling my discoveries
- Fast from selfish motives and actions, worry, indifference, unkind words, pride, complaining, pessimism, bitterness, negative attitude and a lack of gratitude.
- Sharing what I experience as a means to encourage and disciple another.
For Lent 2021, I hope to better posture myself for the passion week. Ultimately, my goal is both simple and challenging – empowered by the Holy Spirit, I desire to move from the superficial to the supernatural, to be more like Jesus in thought, speech, attitude and behaviour (2 Corinthians 3:18). The words of Pope Francis in his 2019 Lenten homily are fitting, “The Lord is the goal of our journey in this life.” I invite you to join me in the journey.
Phil Gunther, DM
Camp Hope 2021
The heart of the SOAR program we define with 3 simple words: Grow, Know and Go. We strive to make SOAR an environment where people can Grow in intimacy with their saviour – Jesus Christ, where they can Know God’s heart for the world around them and beyond, and to encourage people to Go and join in the mission of bringing the good news of salvation to wherever they are each called!
How we were able to run SOAR this year seemed like some sort of “backup plan” to how we normally run the program, and yet through so many different ways God showed us and reminded us that it was not His backup – it was just His plan all along! How we were able to still create environments for Growing, Knowing and Going was a testimony of this and we are excited of all the fruit that will come from Camp Hope 2021 (SOAR SASK).