One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Romans 8:11:
The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.
This, to me, is one of the most shocking and beautiful statements in the Bible. The animating force which allowed Jesus to conquer death lives and moves and breathes new life within us. I have it. You have it.
We are participants in the resurrection. Resurrection is not just something we have to believe happened or will happen. It is something we do. It is a reality to be lived. Here. Now.
This is the focus of Lent.
Most people associate Lent with fasting and sacrifice and entering into darkness. And this is appropriate. But only within the proper context. Lent is really about Resurrection. Lent is the training ground for us to participate in resurrection.
Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. A time where we remember “from dust we came, and from dust we will return.” But there is a difference between you and the dust. It is the Spirit. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is what separates you from dust. (Thanks, Shane Hipps!) Lent is a reminder of how we carry this Spirit.
As we walk through the church calendar, we are on a journey. It is a pilgrimage where we live and encounter the stops along the road Jesus lived and walked. And this journey is headed to resurrection. But to get to resurrection, we have to walk a very specific path:
[Jesus] said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. (Mark 8:34)
The road Jesus walked to resurrection was the cross. So if we want to get there, we must walk the same road.
Because for us to really live out resurrection it takes some practice. It is not natural. Resurrection is about experiencing and giving life, but we get very distracted by things that only have the appearance of life. So we have to train ourselves. Lent is a training ground for cross-like living. And cross-like living is how we get to Resurrection.
Lent is the time where we train our hearts to be more like Jesus. We engage in certain practices so we can be more open to self-giving love which we are to reflect and participate in each day.
It is a time where we fast and give things up so we learn not to be so self-centered.
It is a time where we sacrifice certain things in order to give more to others.
It is a time where we enter into darkness. We create days of small suffering to train ourselves how to respond to real suffering.
It is a time where we ask hard questions of ourselves. It is the place where we explore our own darkness. We find the places we need to change aspects of our lives. We find the places we most need resurrection.
It is even the place where we allow ourselves to doubt. We ask hard questions of our faith. We ask if we still buy into the Jesus thing.
And it all points to resurrection. We do these things not to punish ourselves, but to train ourselves. We enter into these kinds of death so life will occur. We change our patterns and sacrifice comforts so we are more open to the experience of Resurrection.
It is not asceticism for the sake of self-torture, punishment or to make myself feel better because I am miserable. (I have tried this during Lent and it is not helpful at all) It is allowing the things to die which are keeping us from real life. It is learning how to take the road of the cross and experience Resurrection more fully.
So we ask you to join us on this journey. In a lot of ways, the entire church calendar points here. This is what the Christian journey is all about. And we want to walk it together.
I encourage you this week to look over the list of things above. It is by no means a comprehensive list of all the possibilities of Lent, but it is a start. What do you need in this season of life? What might God be calling you to? What new patterns do you need? What is going on in your heart? What areas of life have you been scared to explore.
As you answer this questions, then choose a practice for Lent. Here are a few we suggest:
If you are a newbie with Lent, I suggest Blood Water Mission. Not only is it a good beginning fast, but it is fasting with purpose.
This is a calendar I am doing. And just so you know, this was taken from the Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI in 2010. I did not make this calendar or claim it to be mine. I am in fact, recycling it and adapting it for 2013.
For me it is also helpful to have daily reflections. Here is a great resource for that.
For a more intense fast which also gives to those in need, try this.
Or if none of those grab you, explore this post.
We hope this will be a deep and meaningful season for you and hope to hear about your journey.