Rev. Karen Hernandez, pastor of Living Hope-Kuna United Methodist Church
On Wednesday, March 5, my congregation marked the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. (We literally “marked” it, namely with a special worship service and with ashes on our foreheads!) While this is commonplace in some mainline Christian traditions, it is not universally practiced.
Lent originally meant “long days” and referred to springtime when the daylight hours were slowly getting longer. Over many centuries, Lent ceased to mean spring in general and came to mean spring in the Christian church and, more specifically, the forty days (plus Sundays) immediately before Easter. “Long days” is still appropriate because the number forty in scripture communicates to readers “a long time.” Examples include Noah experiencing the pouring rains for forty days and forty nights; Moses fasting on Mt. Sinai for forty days and forty nights, then receiving the ten commandments; the nation of Israel wandering in the wilderness for forty years; the prophet Elijah, who also had a forty-day period of fasting; and finally Jesus’ forty days and forty nights of fasting in the wilderness just before the start of his public ministry. (At the end of this time, Jesus uses scripture as his reference point when tempted with different offers of power. You can read it in Matthew 4:1-11.)
Christian tradition says that Lent is to be a season of repentance, fasting, and prayer. It tends to be an introspective, contemplative, and more somber season. Many who observe Lent do so by making a sacrifice (such as giving up soda or making an additional financial contribution to a particular cause), fasting (from a particular food, from technology, or from something else whose absence will highlight the person’s dependence on God), or taking on a new discipline (perhaps silent meditation) for the season. The idea is to rid ourselves of the myths of self-sufficiency and independence, to heighten our awareness of dependence upon God, to recognize the tremendous gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us, and eventually to experience the joy of Easter more fully.
I considered giving up chocolate for Lent, but I convinced myself that my soul really is better off if I eat chocolate pretty regularly! Then I thought about sacrificing my terrible habit of procrastination. Even though I think it would benefit my body, mind, and spirit, I decided to wait until next year for that!
On a more serious note, it is a kind of procrastination that I am aiming to give up once and for all. I have recognized my tendency to give into the temptation to be nice rather than truthful, to take the path of least resistance rather than taking a stand, to talk about the weather instead of what really matters. Those are daily temptations that add up to the very real temptation to let time—even a lifetime—slip away without getting to the truly important things.
One of the traditional funeral prayers in the United Methodist Book of Worship includes these lines:
“Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days here are accomplished,
enable us to die as those who go forth live,
so that living or dying, our life may be in you,
and that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us
from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That is what I am seeking in this season: to ensure that I’m living as one prepared to die, so that when I die I will be prepared to live.
If you want to join me in this effort to live with more sincerity and fewer regrets, then join me in worship at Living Hope-Kuna United Methodist Church (260 W. 4th Street) at 9 or 11 a.m. every Sunday and we will learn and practice this together.