By Rev. David Kendall-Sperry
Your Pastor Speaks
We’ve entered the season of Lent in the Christian church calendar. Lent is a time of evaluating our relationship with God. Do I have time to spend with God, evaluating my relationship with God? Do I need to make time to spend with God if I’m otherwise too busy? Such a decision probably comes down to deciding what’s most important in my life.
“Lent” is a tradition each year during the 40 days before Easter when Christians observe fasting and spend time turning toward God. Early Christians also marked Lent as a time when people who were to be baptized into the church would pray and be prayed for until they were baptized on the eve of Easter Day. This tradition has often been recognized as the Easter Vigil after sunset on the Saturday before Easter. So, there’s preparation for some during Lent, and prayers always.
Ash Wednesday is the traditional day to start Lent. That day marks us with a cross of ashes on our foreheads that signifies the recognition of limited time in our bodies. It reminds us that we someday will be ashes to ashes, dust to dust — but only in our physical bodies, not our eternal spirits. This day again begins the journey of Lent to understand ourselves, our shortcomings, our gifts, and to ask for forgiveness and guide us to a path toward God.
Most Christians are curious about “fasting” and what it means for them. If you fast from food and water, you should first talk with your doctor about the safety and boundaries of doing so. If we fast from something that’s optional in life, we should consider the real meaning of “fasting” from it. How will fasting from soda drinks or fasting from caffeine affect my daily life? Will doing so make me more mindful of the days of Lent and cause me to daily consider my life with God? If it does, then that would be a good thing from which to fast.
You might wonder why there are 40 days of Lent. Forty days are, of course, the number of days that Jesus spent in the wilderness, leading to His temptations. We, too, are tempted regularly, if not all the time. Forty days are considered enough to give us time to contemplate where we can change and come closer to God. But only 40 days does not account for all the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Sundays during Lent are in Lent but not of Lent. Sundays as sabbath days are days of celebration, and not of fasting. So, adding the five Sundays in Lent to the count places us at Easter Day.
I recommend taking something on to give you daily focus on your relationship with God. This could be reading the Bible or other spiritual reading. It should focus your attention on God in some way. Often folks will give something up for Lent. If you do, it should be something you realize each day that you are not doing because this is a time of getting closer to God. The realization alone must be enough to shake you out of your daily habits so that you stop and become mindful of your intent for Lent: Offer a prayer or begin a time of contemplation when that happens.
Not everyone feels they have the time for a prayer or for contemplation of their relationship with God. The kids need to be fed, and their homework needs to be checked. The doctor appointments need to be kept. You’re working two or three part-time jobs to make ends meet. And yet, God calls us to take time, perhaps early in the morning or late in the evening, to stop and to consider where we are with God.
Well, with all that said about the season of Lent, winter is coming to an end. The official start of spring is almost here. Daylight Saving Time starts again (set your clocks ahead one hour) this weekend as the days get longer and warmer. School will finish in May for most.
Now is not too late to begin observing Lenten practices, like fasting, regular prayer and worship.
Come to a religious center for regular worship. Come again, come for the first time, come to hear the Good News of God — reconciliation to a God who loves us.
The Rev. David Kendall-Sperry is the rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, 45 W. Winter St., Delaware, and can be reached at 740-369-3175. A member of the Delaware Area Ministerial Association, he also serves on boards for Andrews House and the Men’s Shelter of Delaware County. He has three adult children and two grandchildren, and lives with his wife in Westerville.