Leaning into Lent

“O God our deliverer, you led your people of old through the wilderness and brought them to the promised land. Guide now the people of your church, that, following our Savior, we may walk through the wilderness of this world toward the glory of your world to come; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever. Amen.”  Prayer for Lent from The United Methodist Hymnal, 268                                                      @1978, 1989 Augsburg Publishing House

Among the practices for Lent is confession, and I have a confession to make: I love Lent. Every year I look forward to entering anew into this season of intense spiritual focus. Instead of deepening darkness, as in Advent, Lent is a season of lengthening light. It is a season rooted in the wilderness of Israel and of Jesus (Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4), a season that directs our devotion toward the Cross of Christ, awakening in us desire to approach Him both with our inmost needs and longings, as well as with our heartfelt love and commitment.

It is no coincidence that going through the wilderness and turning toward God for spiritual help go together. In this season of our life together as United Methodists in the United States, we do not have to look far to see the wilderness. You can enumerate it as well as I.

I hope that we are all maintaining daily practices of prayer and scripture reading as well as regular participation in worship and sacraments, along with frequent acts of mercy and justice for our neighbors. But in Lent, we are invited to take a few weeks to go deeper, to be more focused, to ponder anew, and to sacrifice more intentionally. For me, this time of increased devotion is not easy but it is enriching. God uses these spiritual disciplines to open me to the love of Jesus in ways that humble me, stretch me, and lead me to want even more.

As we look ahead to General Conference 2020, may I invite us all to lean into Lent. I plan to find significant ways to fast; determine to go deeper in prayer; seek out opportunities for unrewarded almsgiving; and embrace the way of sacrifice to draw near to Jesus, even as He has drawn near to us. I pray that leaning into Lent this year will give us the spiritual resources we need for what lies ahead in the Easter season, first and foremost with the claim of the Risen Lord to be Lord and Savior of us all. Also, as the General Conference gathers, that God will give grace for the delegates to be undergirded both individually and collectively in discerning a faithful path forward.

So that we may live as winsome witnesses to Christ’s love, please join me in leaning into Lent.

Grace and Peace,

Jeff