Next Sunday, the 23rd of February, is the last Sunday before Lent begins. Can you believe it? I love Lent! I am always excited about the prospect of preparing for Easter, of taking on a spiritual project in order to get ready to receive the greatest and most profound truth there is, the truth that has reordered the universe and which makes all the difference, the truth that gives us hope in death and peace during this life—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If preparing for THAT doesn’t make you excited, I don’t know what will.
Now is the time to begin thinking about what is called a Lenten Rule of Life. A Rule of Life is an intentional pattern of spiritual practices that help shape and form you in a more Godward direction. It is not meant to be a spiritual straight-jacket or an extra to-do list that ends up just making you feel bad about yourself. Rather, a Rule should be a living and life-giving set of practices, ideals, intentions, and hopes. Making a Lenten Rule is about being intentional in your spiritual preparation for Easter. I am rather haphazard sometimes, so the act of being intentional is really helpful for me.
A Lenten Rule can be as simple as “I am going to give X for Lent.” However, to get the most out of Lent I would encourage you to take a more holistic approach. God wants to be part of every aspect of our lives. It is not really possible to partition off your spiritual life from other aspects of your life and it is really unhealthy to try. So, in your Lenten Rule you might try to engage several aspects of your life in a holistic way. Think about a way to engage different aspects of who you are in Lenten preparation: mental, physical, emotional, etc. You might think about engaging your mind spiritually through taking up a Bible study, by reading a devotional book (I’ll have a bunch of suggestions next week, or you can find your own), and/or by engaging in our Soup Group discussions (Wednesdays during Lent at 6:30PM).
Fasting is about engaging your physical body, its hungers and desires, in the process of forming yourself to be more like Jesus. Fasting is a very individual thing and should take into consideration your overall health. For instance, folks who have trouble regulating their blood sugar have no business whatsoever in fasting from food in any significant way, but they might consider fasting from other things they enjoy. There are other ways of fasting that have more to do with making mental and emotional space for spiritual growth, such as a fast from social media, or by limiting the amount of screen time we engage in.
Every Lenten Rule should include prayer. Prayer is the essential tool for spiritual development and is our lifeline to God. As Christians, we should not be able to (or want to) imagine living a day without prayer, however simple our prayers may be. Even wanting to pray is a prayer in and of itself. Prayer is what integrates us, body, mind, and spirit, and helps to make us whole. There are many ways to pray. Do some exploring this Lent. Try out a new way to pray.
Next Sunday, our annual Lenten Offerings booklet will be available (let me know if you’d like me to mail you one!). This booklet will detail the resources that will be available through Holy Apostles for your spiritual growth this Lent, but don’t let that be end of your exploring. Do your own research. And of course, I *love* to talk about this stuff. If you want to discuss spiritual disciplines, prayer, fasting, or Lent in general let me know!