With the season of Lent coming upon us soon, I’ve been doing a little reading and research on some Lenten disciplines I might take on. I stumbled across a quote that spoke to me about the nature and need of our Lenten disciplines.
“Lent is a time for discipline, for confession, for honesty,” wrote Rt. Rev. Tom Wright, a New Testament scholar and retired Anglican Bishop of Durham, England, “not because God is mean or fault-finding or finger-pointing, but because he wants us to know the joy of being cleaned out, ready for all the good things he now has in store.”
Our Lenten discipline should challenge us spiritually and, if possible, physically. The spiritual challenge is necessary so that we can strengthen and grow our faith in God, to sustain us in difficult times and help us deal with sometimes-frightening uncertainty of these times.
A physical challenge is less about challenging ourselves, and more about learning to rely on God. When we engage in an act of self-denial (fasting, abstaining from certain food or drink, or even refraining from watching television or using the Internet), we redirect our cravings away from this world and direct that hunger and yearning toward God.
You may be surprised to see the many unexpected ways in which God provides. In an age of instant gratification, fasting gives us a little insight into what it might be like to be truly hungry, and unsure of where your next meal might come from.
If you’re wondering how you might exercise your faith and grow closer to Christ, here are a few ideas for Lenten disciplines:
Join St. Alban’s in daily morning prayer at 8:00am, either in our small downstairs chapel or online through our Facebook Live broadcasts.
Food Stamp Challenge
Several years ago we encouraged our families to try a “food stamp challenge” where each family would try to live on a very limited daily budget for food — roughly the equivalent amount a family receives on government food assistance. Like fasting, this exercise gives you a new perspective on the daily struggles of low-income families.
Study & Reading
Our Library Committee will have selected books available in the narthex. Pick one up and commit to daily reading and study.
Just for fun, try out Lent Madness — a zany and somewhat bizarre take on March Madness. Instead of hoops and baskets, we have saints and martyrdom! It starts on Ash Wednesday and proceeds daily through Lent, as saints are voted to advance toward the finals and the Golden Halo. It’s a fun way to learn about saints, those Christian faithful who have gone before us.
Finally, make sure to join us for our special Wednesday evening Lenten lecture series. This year, Dr. Hannah Matis of the Virginia Theological Seminary will walk us through several historical highlights related to the founding of the Anglican and Episcopal churches. It’s going to be fascinating and fun; here are the dates and details.
Lent is a time to reflect and remove those things that get in the way of our relationships with God. It’s a time of self-examination and soul-searching, and a time for growth, as we ready ourselves for the Great Feast of Easter.