Over the past five or six years we (many in our congregation) have observed the Season of Lent. Often I am asked why in a Baptist Church, and in particular a Southern Baptist Church. This is not a highly polemical piece. It is an attempt to see the Season from the personal and practical before beings dismissed because only certain denominations observe the Lent.
Over the past few years I have had
a number of conversations with people overcoming addictions. They would be
quick to note that everyone is addicted to something. If we have not identified
our own addiction, it may well be â??Ã?Ãºself.â??Ã?Ã¹
My addict friends tell me one of
the ingredients to overcoming their condition is to remember, â??Ã?ÃºIf we do things
the way we have always done them, we will get what we have always gotten.â??Ã?Ã¹ From
there they operate under two seemingly competing notions. First, they are encouraged
to â??Ã?Ãºbehave their way to right thinking.â??Ã?Ã¹ Second, they are helped to â??Ã?Ãºthink in
right ways in order to choose the right behavior.â??Ã?Ã¹ When one aspect of this new
way of doing things fails they fall back on the other. The combination proves
to be a significant key in the process.
Families make over their newborns
with such attention. It is not long before the little one â??Ã?Ãºgets thisâ??Ã?Ã¹ and
expresses traits indicating they know the world revolves around them. We help
build their self-esteem as they grow re-enforcing the â??Ã?Ãºselfâ??Ã?Ã¹ as both the object
of attention and goal of actualization. Certainly life happens and we may find experiences
affecting our self perception but our actions still give way to caring for the
Jesus announces those who would
follow him must deny self, take up their cross and follow Jesus. These actions
represent counter-measures to a life of â??Ã?Ãºitâ??Ã?Ã´s all about me.â??Ã?Ã¹ We could not find
a greater expression than the culture in which we live. Every commercial is
geared to â??Ã?Ãºyou.â??Ã?Ã¹ Jesus comes along and subverts the â??Ã?Ãºselfâ??Ã?Ã¹ knowing the end game
of self pursuit comes up empty. He announces the way to a full life â??Ã?Ã¬ life in
Jesus. The way to overcome empty is life with Jesus.
Our habits and practices of life
continue to compete with this call. All we do is for the promotion and
preservation of the self. The â??Ã?ÃºSeason of Lentâ??Ã?Ã¹ offers us an intentional way to
â??Ã?Ãºstop doing what we have always done so we might get something different.â??Ã?Ã¹
Opportunity to experience the whole person formed by â??Ã?Ãºgiving upâ??Ã?Ã¹ something that
has so strongly influenced, shaped or monopolized our human experience may well
lead us to both behaving like Jesus and thinking like Jesus.
We can never think we can become
like Jesus if we do not intentionally consider living like Jesus. The Apostle
Paul put it this way to the Church at
4 Let each of you look not only
to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have
this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who,
though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be
grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant,
being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form,
he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a
Now that is what I call â??Ã?Ãºgiving something up.â??Ã?Ã¹
3 comments on “Why Lent? … from my recent newsletter article …”
I will say I’m glad as a Church we practice “non tradional” Baptist observences. I look forward to Lent. I work with people that practice it in their faith, and when they find out you are Baptist and you practice Lent they ask quesitons about what you know etc…and are very surprised that we do in our church. It is a good surprise as well.
Have you considered how counter cultural Lent is? Much of our modern American Christianity is focused on what can we get from God, how we can be blessed, how we can prosper in material ways, as good middle class people should.
While I don’t know that anything is inherently wrong with that, Lent does help me to focus on another way, a conscious and deliberate retreat from our so-called “Christian” culture.
Lent offers us the way of the Cross, of denying ourselves, or of building our spirit in ways that empty prosperity can not give.
I also try to not just be about “giving up” things for Lent, but about “adding to” my journey with special prayers, reflections, times of community.
It is amazing to me that you as a Baptist, reach into the ancient traditions of the Church for deeper ways of taking up your Cross and following Him.
â??Ã?â? MEMENTO, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.
â??Ã?â? Remember, human, that you are dust, and to dust you will return
Love your reminder how counter-cultural Lent is? We still get a few who turn their nose up at our observance because it is not “Baptist.” The disconnect comes when their is failure to find a habit to reinforce the understanding of what it means to “deny self.” We, as you well noted, do not deny ourselves of anything.
I also liked the intent to “add something.” I read elsewhere a group intending Lent to be a time of giving up and doing something intentional. In reality when we think of what Jesus gave up it was not leaving his experience in a vacuum. He moved to do something for us.