The Church of the Brethren ministers manual, called “For All who Minister,” defines Lent with these words: “The forty days of Lent are most frequently identified with Jesus’ fortyday fast in the desert, the forty days Moses spent on Mount Sinai, and Israel’s forty years of wandering in the wilderness. The season of Lent focuses on discipline and penitence and is a time for increased reflection on the life, teaching, and sacrificial death of Christ.”
What all three of these forty day scriptural references have in common is that it was a time of preparation. Jesus was being prepared for his ministry. Moses was being prepared to lead the people into a covenantal relationship with God through the law. And Israel was being prepared to receive the land that was promised to them. Each of these experiences were significant times of faith development so that God could do something incredible in the world.
Similarly in the church we often move through the season of Lent with a certain amount of intentionality and preparedness. And since this season ultimately leads us to the cross, it’s a time of somber reflection as we examine the state of our own faithfulness.
So for many Christians, it is typical practice this time of year to give up something in order to deepen their faith maturity. While this has not been a practice that the Church of the Brethren typically emphasizes a whole lot, it does fit into the focus of Lent being a time of “discipline and penitence.” During Lent this year, like last year with the addition of the Mark read-through, instead of encouraging you to give up something for Lent (although feel free to do this if it is something that you find meaningful and spiritually helpful), I want to encourage you to add something. During Lent this year, we are going to focus on discipleship.
Our Sunday morning worships will center around the disciples in the Gospels and our Wednesday night special services will provide opportunities to hear from disciples in our own congregation.
Hearing others’ stories of faith is something very important to our faith development. Not only do we have faith stories in scripture that strengthen and convict us, but hearing others’ stories is also the gift in being in community. And since there is no disciple shaped cookie cutter that enables us to mass produce faithful people, it is beneficial to our walk of faith to hear from a variety of disciples as they have struggled and succeeded at growing deeper in faith. Because in so doing, we realize that we are not alone in our struggles. We can learn from each other how we might grow into deeper discipleship. May this Lent be a season of strengthened discipleship for you and for our congregation.