In Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. Our practice here on the Gladeville-Mt. Olivet Charge of the United Methodist Church is to mark the end of Lent during our Sunrise Service on Easter morning. Not counting Sunday’s, we will spend the next 40 days preparing for Easter and what it means to be baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ.
In these next 40 days, then we will live the practice of fasting, study about what it means to follow Christ, and get fit for heaven. For it is by showing that we recognize with Christ through his death and resurrection that we can get fit for heaven. It is by studying about God’s work in this world that we realize what we have to go through in order to live Christ today. Fasting then is one means by which we gain control over our own lives as we get closer to God through prayer.
For Confirmands, this time will be one of seeking to understand more about baptism. We will be looking at our story of how God has gotten us to this point in life. We will have the chance to confirm our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We will begin to live our commitment as baptized followers of Jesus Christ.
For those of us who have been following Jesus for a number of years, we will use Lent as a time to draw closer to God. We will do this by praying more, for ourselves, for our relationships, and for the church around the world. We will draw closer to God by using that ancient practice of almsgiving. By making sure our neighbor has what they need for life, we will see more clearly how God loves. We tie almsgiving and prayer together by fasting. That is instead of eating a meal, or two, we spend the time in prayer. So, instead of spending money on ourselves, we lay aside the money that would have been spent on meals to give to our neighbor who is need.
Yes, Lent might be hardship for us. It is better for us to come truthfully before God as people with broken spirits, with grief, than to falsely live. Yes, hardships do come. But it is faith in God that gets us through those hardships. It is not our own power, ingenuity, or will that helps us to live truthfully before God. It is God himself who works wonders in our lives through the hardships that we face.
We recognize God in our life. We give up our time and resources to love God and to love our neighbor. We face hardships knowing that it is faith in Jesus Christ that will get us fit for heaven, to be with God for all time. That is the purpose of Lent, preparation for life with God.