Prayer: Dear Lord, Help me to place my trust in you today and guides me in your truth. Grant me the strength to let go of things I hold onto and in your mercy, forgive my sins. Set me free from the traps of the enemy and help me to fear you. Be gracious to me when my heart is heavy and deliver me from anything that keeps my heart from you. Guard my life and my thoughts and help me always to set my hope in you. Amen On Wednesday we began the Lenten season with the hope that we will draw near to Christ and reflect on His journey to the cross.
This week I want to talk to you about what Lent is and what it should mean for us. The next 6 weeks leading up to Easter we will take a journey together and discuss Temptation, Humility, Contemplation, Confession, Sacrifice and Resurrection.
Seems to me like everything that appears good for us comes with challenges and sacrifices.
As we enter into the Lenten season that is not different we will experience good, we will experience challenges and we will experience sacrifices. All of us have been experiencing good, experiencing challenges and experiencing sacrifices since last Lenten season. When 2 weeks into Lent we suddenly had to shut our doors due to the Pandemic. Almost a year later we are still experiencing those same challenges and sacrifices but hopefully we have also all experienced some good.
I did not grow up participating with the traditions of lent and all the different services leading up to Easter Sunday. I think the season of lent is very important and can lead us to a deeper relationship with the Lord if we allow it.
As a young child, Easter for me was about finding an Easter basket and enjoying candy and chocolates. When I began my faith journey, I went to a church that did not even talk about Lent, only the powerful resurrection Sunday of Easter. It wasn’t until I came to the UCC that I really learned what Lent was. Maybe, this morning, you were like me and did not understand lent and now as you get older and journey farther into your faith, you would like to see what lent is and how it can help you journey as a Christian.
Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays where we march towards Calvary and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is a time that usually gets sucked up with pagan traditions. There isn’t anything wrong with enjoying those traditions as long as we stay on track to the true meaning.
A lot of people miss the deep Christian traditions that help us walk closer to the Lord.
Eggs and bunnies are fun, but remembering what Christ has done for us can change our lives.
It begins on Ash Wednesday- when the sign of the cross is made on your forehead to remind you that it is the beginning of this most holy time.
We have Palm Sunday- The Sunday before Easter where Jesus came into Jerusalem and all shouted Hosanna with those palm leaves waving and cheering, and a few days later, the same people crying out Crucify Him!
We have Maundy Thursday- A quiet sober day as we remember the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.
The day that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples.
The day that Jesus shared his last Passover meal before He went to the cross.
The day that Jesus gave us a new commandment. John 13:34 reads “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
What about that New commandment? Well, for one thing, it raised the definition of love to a new and higher standard.
Jesus sacrificially met His followers' deepest need---that of new spiritual life and the forgiveness of sins.
He even loved His enemies, and He calls us to show love to those who don't appear to deserve it. Just as Jesus loved sinners "to the end" when He had nothing to gain from them, so must we. The Bible says that there was nothing attractive about sinful mankind that drew Him to love us. God loved us while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8). Salvation is not only a wonderful gift that protects us from the penalty that we deserve (Romans 6:23), the work of Christ also gives new life.
Then comes Good Friday- The day they crucified Jesus and put him into a tomb, sealed it and guarded it so that what He said would happen could not happen.
For 3 days believers did not really understand what had happened.
The day that the centurion guard utters words… “Surely he was the Son of God”
Finally, Resurrection Sunday - Easter
The risen Savior witnessed by over 500 people that changed the world. Whether that changes you and I is determined by what we do with the risen savior.
I am one of those that ran to the cross as Jesus touched my heart and changed my life!
But at numerous times in my life, I have felt empty when I knew that I should be filled with Joy and happiness. I know that some of it was very much my fault because I did not do what I knew the Lord was telling me and I paid a price for it.
I was too proud to surrender to Jesus and allow Him to do what He Himself wanted to do, and it would have been a lot easier had I listened and not learned the hard way.
So, what is Lent supposed to accomplish in our lives? (What of these 40 days)
A reminder of what Jesus did for us? Yes
Is it a time to reflect and examine where you and I are spiritually in our lives? Yes
It is corporate worship of Christ… yes. Is there more for each one of us individually? Yes
Lent is a time to reflect, a time to do some soul searching and a time to take stock of where you are at spiritually and where you want to be.
It is a time to make sure that you are not spiritually backsliding.
It is a time to examine your life and make sure that things are better with Jesus now than they were a month ago., or two months ago, or a year ago. That you are moving forward not backward.
I have to admit that sometimes I struggle with Lent.
Lent usually involves giving up something up for 40 days- candy, drinking, smoking, go on a diet, TV, movies, video games, Facebook, cell phones, things that take our time away from God.
Most of us would not want to give up our cell phone, music, tv, social media.
Catholics give up meat and eat fish on Fridays.
We tell people what we give up and then we walk around wearing it as a badge of honor.
Christ denied Himself and went to the cross.
Christ sacrificed All!
Christ prayed to the Father until He sweat blood.
In order to prepare your heart for Easter- Would you be willing to do that?
Lent was designed to take God’s people to places they have not been yet! (Deeper)
Deeper in their walk with God!
A journey with God that involves adventure and risk.
We have no right to come to the Lord and say that we will take the bad things out of our life for 40 days and then allow them back.
He desires to remove them.
Somewhere along the way Lent became a portion of time instead of a journey with the Lord to the cross.
Somewhere we felt it was what we would do instead of what the Lord does through us and for us.
Somewhere we got comfortable in the darkness of this world and choose what we will do and what we will not.
Somewhere we stopped living for the Lord, living in love for one another, and wanting to be the reflection of Christ.
I think God is calling each one of us this morning to relearn what it means to be loved by God and to love others.
To examine ourselves and make sure we are on track of what the Lord wants for our life.
To seek out the redeemer with our whole heart, and be willing to let Him do what He desires.
Each one of us is more than willing to tell of the problems we see in other people but very sensitive about what is going on in our own lives.
Lent for each one of us has to be an attitude change- More of Jesus and less of self- “He must increase, and I must decrease”
Tearing of their clothes, Sitting down in ashes, It was a sign of repentance- A sign of being sorrowful and wanting change.
I have to tell you- if Jesus called it sin a 100 years ago, it is still sin. There is no discussion needed. Because we as a society have watered it down does not change the fact of what it is.
You see, Jesus doesn’t simply call us to believe that He existed, or even to believe that He can save us. He calls on us to commit our whole lives to Him—to trust Him alone for our salvation, and then to follow Him as His disciples. In Luke 14:27 he says, “Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.”
Is Christ the master of your life? Have you put to death your own plans and committed yourself to His will for your life? Don’t be satisfied with anything less, for there is no greater joy in life than following Christ every day. And Lent is the perfect time to begin that joy. Amen