So, we’re a week into Lent in 2018, and I think that the question you might be asking, I know it’s a question that a lot of Evangelicals ask, is, “Why celebrate something like Lent?”
it is a valid question in our day and age. It seems that these carry overs from the past, that are so often celebrated in churches that would be classed as ‘Mainline’ or even ‘Traditional’, should be done away with in the service of our modern way of life. This, naturally is a way of life that demands new, shiny, something different. Heaven forbid that I have the same experience of something more than once!
We can safely say that the sort of religion that we have seen in these liturgical churches is dead. Who wants to be saying the same words each week? Who wants to be repeating the phrases that they have for the last 20 years? Who wants to be singing the same songs each week, with the same organ accompanying them?
Religion is dead, church is dead. We are all about the spiritual these days. We don’t need all of this tradition. We have cut ourselves adrift, free to make up our own stories, free to be our own people, free to reinvent faith, theology, and orthodoxy as we see fit. That is the gift that the Renaissance gave to us all.
Well, let’s talk about story for a second.
The thing that we have to realise is that we, humans, at our deep core, are people of stories. We are people who tell stories, who delight in hearing stories, and who long to participate in stories. That is a massive part of what gives us our identity. Think about the nation that you belong to right at this moment. The only thing that might unite you to the people around you, whose ancestors might have been bitter enemies, is the story of the nation that you are told. The great story of America, overcoming the odds and rebelling against the English. Or the story of Austraia, taming the outback. Or of Britain, proud rulers of the known world, or the story of my own country, New Zealand, the people who are creative, resourceful, and punch above their weight far more than they should be able to.
These are only stories.
These are only things that you have been told. Yet you inhabit them. They form your identity, they help you to relate to your neighbours. That is why we tell them.
The thing is, though, as Christians, we inhabit a different story. We have a story that is supreme over all of the other ones. That is one of the reasons that we gather together regularly – to remind ourselves of that story. To retell ourselves our TRUE story, the only TRUE story, so that we can go and live out of that reality in the week.
How do we keep tabs on the story that we are telling? How do we ensure that we are getting the richest experience out of our journey of faith?
There are many ways to do this, and one of them, one that I hold very dear, is to follow the Christian Calendar. This is a series of seasons that is designed to lead us all through the year and through the story of Jesus. It is designed to take us from His birth (Christmas), through to His death (Easter), and then to show us how He fits in to the ordinariness of everyday life. It is a way for us to set aside specific times of the year to focus on different parts of the story. Lent is a time for us to identify with the story of Jesus and His temptation, His preparation for ministry, and the ultimate sacrifice of His life on the Cross for us. This is a time for us to prepare our hearts, and to grow closer to Jesus as a result. This is not about religion at all, this is entirely about us drawing closer to Jesus, closer to His heart, to receive His love, and to then be able to share that love around with the people that we encounter.
Question: How are you going to celebrate this Easter? What are you doing to draw yourself closer to Jesus?