From Pastor Bill…
Dear Pittman Park family,
The humor is somewhat twisted, but I smiled when I saw a t-shirt imprinted with the words, “I’m giving up hope for Lent.” Of course, the thought is ridiculous. Lent is all about hope! It is about our hope in Christ …and Christ’s hope in us!
Do you realize we are on the cusp of the season of Lent? March 2nd is Ash Wednesday, the day on the church calendar that ushers us into this season of reflection, repentance and fasting. Distractions can claim more expansive territory than we ever intended. The season of Lent is a time set aside for reorienting our focus toward God. As early as the fourth century, there is evidence that the church was observing a 40-day period of fasting and prayer before Easter. Originally, it was a time of preparation specifically for those who were seeking to be baptized into the Christian faith. It wasn’t long however, before the entire church saw the ongoing benefit of observing this special season.
Have you ever “given something up” for Lent? People fast from all sorts of things during Lent. Often you may hear someone say they are giving up some item of food or a favorite drink for Lent. Can you imagine 40 days without meat …or 40 days without chocolate …or 40 days without fast food …or 40 days without Coke …or coffee …or alcohol? But the list of those things from which people fast isn’t limited to food or drink. Can you imagine 40 days without television …or 40 days without golf …or 40 days without texting …or 40 days without (don’t say it!) …social media?? Most of us live with few constraints to our choices. We live in a culture that encourages us to believe we can have it all. Fasting is an opportunity to step back and say maybe this way of living is counterproductive. I was fascinated to discover a couple of days ago there is such a thing as a “National Day of Unplugging.” What is even more intriguing is that this year it happens to fall so close to Ash Wednesday. Their website is filled with some great suggestions about how to set aside technology (particularly your phone) from sundown March 4th to sundown March 5th. This “National Day of Unplugging” has nothing to do with Lent, …but on the other hand, it has everything to do with Lent.
Not everyone fasts during Lent, but if you choose to give it a try, I will share that there are generally three wonderful benefits. All of these are gifts from God. First, there is the benefit of awareness. Most of what we consume, we do so without even thinking. All of that changes when you are fasting. Second, there is the benefit of simplicity. Taking just one thing away from a cluttered existence can give you a new understanding of what’s really important. Third, there is the benefit of prayer. I imagine that during Lent, many have discovered prayer is not so much something we do, but something God does in us.
You get it don’t you? Lent is not so much about what you are giving up but what you are taking on. We don’t know the tune any longer, but the first century Christians loved a praise chorus with the following words… “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (Phil. 2:5-7a) What a wonderful thing to take on …the form of a servant! And, it all happened because he gave something up …he emptied himself.
May God bless us during these 40 days as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter. Let me encourage you to begin making preparations in your mind and heart for Lent right now …and put it on your calendar to participate in our Ash Wednesday Service in the sanctuary at 6:00 p.m. on May 2nd.