Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Lent is a well known season on the Christian calendar. Even some of the non-liturgical communities of faith speak of it and recognize its unique place in the life of the church. One of the traditions is the annual "Invitation to Observe a Holy Lent." Though the language may vary a bit from one denomination to another, the gist of it remains the same. The United Methodist ritual is one I have read many times over the years as I have led congregations into the Lenten season.
"Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ: Christians have always observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection. It became the custom of the church to prepare for Easter by a season of penitence, fasting, and prayer. This season of forty days provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for baptism into the body of Christ. It is also the time when persons who had committed serious sins and had been separated from the community of faith were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the church. The whole congregation is thus reminded of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ and the need we all have to renew our baptismal faith. I invite you, in the name of the Lord, to observe a holy Lent, by self-examination, penitence, prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; and by reading and meditating on the Word of God."
Normally, these words are read to begin the Ash Wednesday service, the event which ushers in the season of Lent. Sometimes they are used on the first Sunday of Lent when the whole church gathers for worship. I offer them to you now on this day before the Lenten season begins as a way of inviting you to join with me in making these days before Easter days which make a difference in our spiritual journey.