From the Pastor

As you receive this newsletter, we will be preparing to enter the Lenten Season. It wasn’t too long ago that you would not have read that sentence in a Baptist publication. However, over the past few decades we in the “Free Church” tradition have discovered the value in the order, progression, and intentionality of the emphasis on the Christian Year. It gives us a framework that helps ensure that throughout the year we give focus to the major events in the life of Christ, the doctrines of the Church, and the seasons of faith.

Lent is a period when we focus on repentance, self-examination, and preparation for our own participation in the work of Christ, culminating in the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter. (This year, by the way, Easter is almost as late as it can be, coming on April 21. It has to do with the timing of the full moon.)

The Season begins with Ash Wednesday, March 6. The imposition of ashes is a graphic reminder both of our need for repentance and our identification with the death of Christ. There is something deeply moving to me in the words traditionally used as the ashes are placed on our foreheads: “From dust you have come and to dust you shall return. Repent and believe the Gospel.”

As each of you comes forward, there is no way for us to know what the next year will hold, but we can be certain that we will face it confidently if we have truly died to ourselves and are living in faith. Then we can be assured of the presence of Christ in our lives, whatever we have to face.

Lent has also traditionally been a time when Christians “gave up” something or refrained from some practice. It is often something that you know is bad for you, but if that is the criterion, then it would make sense to refrain from it all the time, not just for a season. Maybe if you can stop a bad habit for forty days, it might lead to a permanent change.

The truer origin of the practice is the desire to refrain from something frivolous or time-consuming in order to spend more time devoted to the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, and service to others. Refraining simply creates a vacuum. It needs to be filled with something positive.

Lent usually sneaks up on us. Most of us probably don’t give much thought about how we will spend the time until we arrive at the Ash Wednesday service. So now I’m giving you almost a week’s notice. Think about it. Pray about it. Get serious.

What do you hear God asking you to give up — or at least put on the back burner for a while — so you can devote more time to your spiritual development? How can you grow in your Christian faith if you become intentional about that growth? These are questions we could address at any point in our Christian pilgrimage, but the observance of Lent pushes us into a serious consideration of how we can be more effective followers of Jesus.