Believe it or not Lent begins on February 13! As many of you may already know, Lent is the season of the church year in which Christians prepare for the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent lasts for forty days (Sundays don’t count though, because every Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection), and is a time of repentance – a time to return to God and to refocus our lives on Christ. Traditionally, Christians do this by engaging in a time of intentional spiritual discipline during the season of Lent. There are lots of different ways to do that, depending on who you are and what you need. Here are six suggestions for spiritual practices you could use during this Lenten season.
Fast – It’s not just for monks and supermodels anymore. Some people choose to fast by going without food for a period of time. But that’s not the only way to fast. You could choose to cut out some of the things in your life that distract you from God. What about using the 40 days to fast from sweets, tv, soda, cigarettes, or fast food as a way to purify your body and life? How about giving up an activity so that you can spend more time outside in God’s creation? Fasting is about letting go of something in order to focus on God.
Pray – Do you have a time set aside each day for prayer? If not, that might be a practice to develop during these forty days. Use Lent as a time to become more in tune with God by making prayer a central part of your life. Pray while you’re taking a walk or driving. Say a prayer every time you brush your teeth or make dinner or check your mail. Before you call someone on the phone, pray for them. Be intentional about creating space in your day to sit for 20 minutes with God.
Learn – Sunday School isn’t just for kids, you know. Part of our calling as disciples of Jesus Christ is to continually grow in our knowledge of God. Being part of a group whose purpose is to learn more about God and the Bible is the best way to do that. Here at the church we have two great classes that meet every Sunday at 9:30. All are welcome. Whether you’re a Bible scholar or you have to look in the table of contents to find the book of Genesis – everyone has something to learn and everyone has something to teach. On Tuesday February 12 we are beginning a Lenten study about the last day of Jesus’ life called 24 Hours That Changed the World. You are welcome to join in the fun at 7:00pm for the 7 week study. Whether you take advantage of the learning opportunities at our church, or you are part of a group somewhere else, Lent is a great time to begin a discipline of learning and growing in knowledge of your Christian faith.
Serve – Why not take on a service project during Lent? You could volunteer somewhere, collect food for Haven House or the Darby Food Pantry, or reach out to a friend or neighbor in need. Serving others is a great way to serve God.
Give Thanks – We are people who have been richly blessed by a generous and loving God. Perhaps this season of Lent could be a time for you to focus on the blessings that God has brought you in your life and to give thanks. Take these forty days to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. You could commit to writing down three things you are thankful about the day each night before you go to bed, or to sending one thank you note every day during the season.
Slow Down – Sometimes we need to add something to our lives to help us refocus on God. And sometimes we need to allow ourselves to step back and breathe in order to discover God’s presence with us. For those whose days are already full to the point of craziness with projects and jobs and errands and caretaking, perhaps a good Lenten discipline would be to focus on taking care of another of God’s beloved children – yourself. Make it a practice during this season of Lent to take thirty minutes every day to be alone doing something that helps you relax – like reading, playing music, or just taking a rest.
So these ideas might be a place to start as we walk through Lent together this year. Take some time in the next few weeks to pray about what sort of spiritual discipline you should develop in this season. Think about your own spiritual needs and gifts. Where do you feel you need to connect more with God? Where do you feel that your life needs some tending? If you are comfortable, please share what you are doing for Lent with others in the church, so that we can pray for you. Let me know what you’re doing, and I’ll let you know what I’m doing – and we will pray for one another. May this season of Lent be for you a time for reconnection, refocus, and blessing.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Sarah Beck is a recent graduate of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, Indiana and a provisional elder in the Rocky Mountain Conference of the United Methodist Church. She was appointed to the United Methodist-American Baptist Church in June 2011. Prior to coming to Hamilton, she served as Youth Ministries Coordinator at Wesley United Methodist Church in Charleston, Illinois. A lifelong Midwesterner, Sarah loves being in the midst of the beautiful Bitterroot Valley and is very much enjoying her Montana adventures. You can follow her on Twitter @sbeck.
United Methodist-American Baptist Church
211 North Sixth Street - Hamilton, MT 59840
Church Office Hours: Tuesdays - Fridays, 9:00-noon
Read past sermons here.
This Week at UMAB Church
Monday May 20
7:00 PM: Esther Circle (Memorial Room)
Tuesday May 21
10:30 - NOON: Coffee with Pastor Sarah at River Rising Cafe
Wednesday May 22
6:00 PM: Vision Team (Memorial Room)
7:00 PM: Choir Rehearsal (Sanctuary)
Sunday May 26
9:00 AM: Sunday School
Koinonia Bible Study (Upstairs)
Journey through the Bible (Basement)
10:00 AM: Worship (Sanctuary)
11:00 AM: Felllowship Time (Memorial Room )