In  HOPE

 In HOPE 8.3 

David Timms  

Lenten Stories

If you participate in Lent, would you be willing to share your experiences over the next 6 weeks? I'd like to hear how God is touching and guiding your life through this season of repentance, waiting, and fasting--and perhaps use this sidebar to tell Lenten stories.

If you'd like more background and other reflections on Lent, you might check the "In HOPE" archive at www.hiu.edu/inhope -- specifically the Lenten issues from recent years: In HOPE 5.4 [Lent 2005]; In HOPE 6.7 [Lent 2006]; and In HOPE 7.4 [Lent 2007].

Thanks

Last week I asked for your help and many of you sent me your stories and insights about "waiting on the Lord." Thankyou so very much! The book proposal continues to take shape.

Hope International University
Fullerton  CA  92831

 

Lent 2008

Today is Ash Wednesday—the official start of Lent in the western church.

Many people, if they know of Lent at all, write it off as ritualistic, a relic of the medieval era when people had simpler lives structured around the church calendar. The church calendar barely gets a look these days, though the systematic process of re-living the gospel can be life-changing.

Lent belongs on that calendar, and the spiritual discipline of fasting, traditionally associated with Lent, has enormous value.

Lent represents an opportunity for us to fast collectively—not in a competitive spirit (who can give up the most or suffer the most?) but in a communal spirit (what might God be saying to us together?). As such it is not primarily a tradition but an opportunity.

Let’s be clear. The spiritual disciplines—and fasting is one of them—do not earn reward points with the Father. He does not love us more nor love us less based on our participation in the disciplines. The disciplines do not guarantee our godliness. Nor do they obligate the Father to bless us with ecstatic visions or blessed insights.

Any decision to fast—be it from various foods, drink, television programs, movies, internet browsing, video games, driving (when you could walk), etc—is expressly for the purpose of creating space to encounter Christ afresh.

The Lenten fast lasts the six and a half weeks leading up to Easter, and excludes Sundays since they are all “resurrection days.” It tests those of us who like to pamper ourselves or who have addictive personalities. (That covers us all, doesn’t it?) But the Lord walks with us through this journey.

We ought not fast and complain. That simply betrays ingratitude and inattention to the Lord. Nor should we fast and boast. Be assured that the ancient Pharisees fasted more regularly and comprehensively than any of us will, and while they felt thoroughly proud of themselves they remained (for the most part) spiritually deaf and blind to what God was doing.

As we fast, we wait—humbly, attentively, patiently, and consistently.

The Lenten fast corresponds with the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. It will test us, too. Some of us will struggle with the self-control to maintain the fast; others may struggle with the apparent silence of God. The wilderness provides a good metaphor.

If you’ve never observed Lent, consider doing so this year. These small ways of denying ourselves and dying to ourselves can open doors to rich spiritual growth. One way forward is with a spiritual friend who can debrief with you every few days; perhaps someone who journeys with you for this experience.

May this Lent season deepen our walk with Christ.

In HOPE --

David

[If this is new for you and you have questions about how to structure your Lenten experience, feel free to drop me a line so we can brainstorm some possibilities together.]

 

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I'm always happy to explore these issues further.

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You can find back issues of "In HOPE" (2005-2007) at http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/.

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. "In HOPE", however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. "In HOPE" has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.