This morning in the Daily Oklahoman there was a piece on the sidebar about Lent and Ash Wednesday. The writer suggests evangelicals appear to be more and more interested in liturgical worship and specifically some things Catholic. It went on to say, “Bratcher said many Protestants find they have more in common with Catholics than with an increasingly secular culture, and “we’re becoming focused more on what unites us as Christians.””
We seem to be lacking in Church history. For many of us who are “Protestant” believe Church history began with the Reformation. I know, many of you like me, we were told are not Protestant but rather we can trace our existence back to John the Baptist. I encourage you to read more Church history, you find this one of the biggest stretches in church history.
We are too eager to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Reformation returned us to a “scholastic” [read, “thinking”] expression of faith. It was necessary. However, fearful of being in any way associated with Rome, many coming out of the Reformation put away any experiential practice deeming it “ritual.” And, any ritual is “bad” – though we “ritually” greet guests, pray certain prayers and hold a “ritual” order of worship that were it changed would create quite a stir. But that is not ritual?
For too long we have separated out what it means to follow Jesus as only having right belief. How that affects our decisions is really a remote point. Rather than looking for liturgical worhsip, I think many are hopeful of a “whole” faith which connects the physical with the spiritual and so find the reality of Jesus’ abundant life. Connecting the physical and the spiritual means we connect our thinking and our emotion and so our experiences with our faith. So, we might say what good is right belief if it is not expressed in right action?
Where does Lent come in for me? Mental assent is often subject to rationalization. If I make a mental commitment, I am the only one who knows about it. Sure, I know God knows but after all, he is up there not right here. And at any rate, I had to because …
However, in the context of corporate worship I agree with those there that the Cross of Christ, the Passion of Christ, is paramount to my spiritual experience. Therefore, I want to spend some time thinking about what Jesus gave up for me. How often do you thknk about Philippians 2? Likely only when it comes up as a text in bible study or you hear it referred to in a sermon. I want to connect with what Jesus gave up. So, in order to have a daily reminder, I choose to give up something that requires thought and sacrifice. Now each day when I think about that thing given up, I am thinking about what Jesus gave up and am called to worship and thanksgiving.
Far from looking for liturgical worship, many of us are looking for a “whole” connection of life and faith. Not satisfied with a “mental” spirituality, we are looking for ways for our spirituality to be expressed. So, not only do you give up something, in the process we mediate and pray and read Scripture with a view to transformation not ritual.
During our time of reflecting on what Jesus gave up for us, we move to remember our Baptism with Christ described in Romans 6. We consider our frailty and repentance and so we consider the phrase, “repent in dust and ashes.” We light a candle so as to agree we “are the light of the world.” Each of these physical actions connect us to a spiritual truth and reality. We then have connected the physical and spiritual on our journey of faith.
In what ways do you express your spirituality? Or, have you given in to the incomplete individualism that calls my faith, “my business?” Read the Scriptures again.