Pastor's Message - The View from the Pulpit...
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” … Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.” - Matthew 4: 1-3, 10-11
Much of the origins of Lent comes from Matthew 4: 1-11 (I encourage you to read all 12 verses). We observe Lent for 40 days because that is how long Jesus was in the wilderness in preparation for his formal ministry to begin. So Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday- the day before Easter. (Note that Sundays are not included in the 40 days because every Sunday is considered a mini Easter!) And what did Jesus do for those 40 days to be prepared for his ministry to begin? Matthew tells us he prayed and fasted. Thus, we observe Lent by participating in equally penitent and faithful activities.
Though traditionally, fasting may be what we think of first and foremost when it comes to Lent. The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday. In the days of early Christianity, people wouldn’t want to be tempted by the sweets and meats that they were giving up during Lent in order to fast in commemoration of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. So the day before Lent began, they would clean out their pantries and cup-boards and have a feast. This tradition of great parties and elation has continued and evolved over the years, most notably into Mardi Gras festivities. Our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage also celebrates Fat Tuesday by calling it Fasnacht Day or “Fasting Night,” during which we eat as many deliciously, delectable “doughnuts” as our hearts desire. Because come the next day, no more doughnuts for six weeks.
There are many examples in our culture of fasting and giving things up for Lent. How-ever, there seems to be less emphasis on the other half of what Jesus did during those 40 days: prayer. In recent decades there has been an increasing effort to not only subtract things from our daily lives, but to also make sure we are adding spiritual practices, like prayer. Some of us may choose to follow a daily devotional during Lent or participate in the Lenten Prayer Vigil that we have at New Goshenhoppen during Holy Week, beginning at 9:30 p.m. on Maundy Thursday and ending on Good Friday at 12:00 noon.
Prayer is just one example of many spiritual practices to engage with more fully during Lent. If you are choosing to give up something for Lent, I also encourage you to add a spiritual practice. After all, Jesus did both. I also invite you to do research into what practices might be right for you. And our pastoral staff is always available to discuss what option may be best for you at this time, for not all spiritual practices are a one-size-fits-all type deal. If you’re not sure what I mean, ask me what I’ve discerned I need from a spiritual practice this Lent. The following options are for your consideration (from https://www.fbckelowna.com).
Solitude and Silence: Creating Space for God.
Solitude is that time when we pull away from our life in the company of others in order to give our full undivided attention to God. Silence deepens the experience of solitude. In silence we withdraw not only from our outer noise, but also from the “inner noise“ of our thoughts, human striving, intellectual hard work, and inner compulsions so that we can listen to God.
Lectio Divina: Encountering God in Scripture.
Lectio Divina, a Latin phrase translated divine or sacred reading, is an approach to scripture that opens us to a life transforming encounter with God within the biblical text. It refers to an ancient practice that is a slower and more reflective reading of the Scriptures that allows God to address us directly according to what God knows we need.
The Examen: Bringing My Whole Self to God.
The examen, or the daily review, involves taking a few moments at the end of the day (or a longer period of time at the end of the week) to go back over the events of the day in the week and ask God to show evidence of divine presence (examine of consciousness) in ourselves and circumstances.
Blessings on a prayerful and spiritually deepening Lent, church!