Mobile, AL (WKRG) - Thack Dyson with St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Daphne joins us to talk about the coming season of Lent. Here's a look at our conversation:
Chad: We wanted to talk Lent, we're getting closer. What is that?
Lent (from an old English word meaning "spring" the time of the lengthening of days), is the penitential 40-day season (excluding Sundays) before Easter. The season begins with Ash Wednesday, which is on February 14 this year. The 40 days are symbolic of Christ's 40 days in the wilderness. The forty days of Lent extend from Ash Wednesday through Holy Saturday.
Chad: What are some good ways to observe lent in your opinion?
We encourage folks to observe a holy Lent, through self-examination and repentance. This is done through prayer, fasting, self-denial, reading and meditating on God's Holy Word, corporate worship, and acts of mercy.
Though prayer should be a daily discipline 365 days a year, we ask our folks to start and end each day with prayer during Lent. This includes reading the Daily Office (Morning, Evening and Family Prayer) from the Book of Common Prayer. Prayer can also include something as simple as saying grace before meals. We remind folks that if they pray daily, they will have a clearer vision of the Risen Christ at Easter.
Another discipline includes fasting and abstinence. In this instance, abstinence means removing certain foods from your diet (usually by not eating meat) and fasting lowers the quantity, which usually means skipping a meal and smaller portions. Therefore, the rule is "keep it smaller and keep it simpler." Don't eat so much during Lent. Not because you necessarily have to lose weight, but because the practice will give you strength in your spiritual life by weakening the attractions of those things that distract us from our relationship with God.
Reading Scripture is another Lenten discipline. Using our Daily Office, we have assigned Bible readings for each day of the calendar year. These readings are also indicated in our daily devotional, Forward Day by Day. There's solace, insight, encouragement, grace and a whole lot more in Scripture.
Another Lenten discipline is corporate worship. Corporate worship is a basic Christian duty. Doing so brings us understanding, strengthens our faith, gives us hope, fills us with encouragement, and gives us the first-hand experience of being loved by God. Corporate worship also gives us the ability to love others more fully. There is nothing we can do on Sunday morning that is more important than being in God's House and being fed the Body and Blood of Christ. To this end, we try to encourage folks to make the commitment to not miss one Sunday during Lent.
Finally, spiritual and corporal acts of mercy are encouraged during Lent. Spiritual acts of mercy include: comforting those in grief, bearing wrongs patiently, forgiving others, and intercessory prayer. Corporal acts of mercy include: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, showing hospitality to the stranger, visiting the sick, and ministering to prisoners.
Chad: Why do some churches encourage people to give something up for Lent?
We encourage giving up something for Lent to help folks get more focused on their relationship with God. Lent is a season of self-examination. We are to ask ourselves what have we have done, or left undone, that have separated us from God? We should honestly ask ourselves, "What must I do or let go to be back in right relationship with God?" To this end, we give up those things that have helped to drive this wedge between us and God.
Some folks think fasting or giving something up for Lent involves giving up certain sinful pleasures. A person once told me she was "giving up sugar in her coffee for Lent." Though it was a well-intentioned gesture, she was missing the point. Doing without sugar in your coffee is not an act of penitent self-denial. It merely spoils a decent cup of coffee. No, self-denial should go deeper. We should abstain from all those things that distract us from God and loving our neighbor. We should strip ourselves of our unresolved anger, resentments, and jealousies. In their place, we should put on the mantles of love, forgiveness, and grace.
Chad: What is the lesson from lent you want people to learn?
Guest: Lent is a time of repentance. It is a time to turn back God. It is when we are called to make a spiritual "U-turn." The Greek term for this is metanoia or repentance. Like the Prodigal Son, we are called to go back to where we are loved unconditionally. This would be for us in the saving embrace of Christ. Once our relationship is restored, we will also be able to love ourselves and each other as Christ loves us.
Chad: What is something about lent you think people miss or have a hard time understanding?
Many folks don't like Lent because of the misperception that it's a season of spiritual self-flagellation. We are not called to spend the season of Lent beating our chests and saying, "I'm a worthless sinner." Instead, we should be thanking God we are loved, despite our sinful natures, and work toward the restoration of our relationships with God and each other.
Chad: What do you like about this season?
I love the season of Lent. It is a time for me to take stock of my own spiritual journey and do the sometimes hard and necessary work of rebuilding my relationships with God and others. It makes Easter Day more meaningful for me and helps me to live an Easter life the rest of the year.
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