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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Conundrum of Lent

Once again this year, we have decided as a church community to observe the season of Lent. Without fail, this announcement will elicit a few raised eye-brows from the crowd, and a few more questions about why we do this. Why observe Lent when we aren't a formal, traditional church? Why do Lent if we're not Catholic? Why do Lent and put ourselves under a kind of "bondage" when we are free in Christ?

For many of us, however, we have found the experience of Lent to have an odd appeal to us, and in this post I want to try and explain why.
In Hebrews 11:25, 26 we read,
Moses chose to share the oppression of God's people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.

While living in Egypt as a young man, Moses had the opportunity to choose a life of comfort, riches and ease. He could have lived out his days in the Pharaoh's palace and enjoyed the benefits of that life. Moses, however, chose differently. He realized that he was not at home in Egypt- that his real people and his real purpose lay somewhere else. So he intentionally did some very difficult things. He identified with the slaves. He followed the leading of God's Spirit. He stared down the Pharaoh and he took a million people through the Red Sea. Why? Because in his heart he believed in a better land, a better place, where God was leading him and the people. Sacrifices and hardship would be worth the journey. Giving up the treasures of Egypt would be a small sacrifice in comparison to living fully alive as the people of God.

In many ways, I see us facing the same choice. In a metaphorical way, we live in the palace of Egypt- our modern life offers us a continual feast of self-satisfying pursuits and possessions. We have the choice to live out our days here, or we can choose as Moses did to sacrifice for a better land.

I don't know about you, but the "treasures of Egypt" have a way of gripping my mind, and eventually my heart. Things that I once knew nothing about have become essentials in my day-to-day living- coffee, email, Kindle, Words with Friends, ESPN- the list could go on and on. As I hold these treasures in my hand, I realize that none of them are bad or sinful in and of themselves. They are tools and objects. But at the same time, I also realize that my hands, and my life, can be pretty full. Lent is an opportunity to willingly lay some of these things down for a time so that I might come before God with empty hands. Lent is a time to say, "God, show me how to follow you into a better land. This Egypt is not my home- I want to belong to your people."

So, may I encourage you to enter willingly into a time of self-denial on some level? We might be tempted to see this as a yoke of slavery- doing without something we love- but we need to see that it is a bold attempt to throw off true slavery. You see, the treasures of Egypt will always keep us bound to Egypt, and this kind of slavery keeps us from belonging fully to God. Sure, on a spiritual level we are fully His already, but on a practical level we know this is not our full experience. We are captive to our possessions and our pursuits. What would it look like to throw off these captors and to journey with God into the wilderness of transformation? That is the purpose of Lent.

What will you choose?
If you know what you are laying down for Lent, post it below!

May you know that God longs to lead you on a journey into His great reward-
Nick

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

For Lent I am giving up evening tv viewing during the work week. It's my 'numbing out after a long day' habit that needs to be broken. Instead I will read, journal, pray, exercise, etc.
Marian

Pastor Nick said...

Awesome! I love the clarity of your plan Marian. Not necessarily easy to carry out, but more likely to work out than a vague "less TV, more reading" kind of idea. Way to go!

dannystereo said...

For lent, I am giving up purchasing any musical equipment.

Not that musical equipment itself is evil, but I definitely do not like my attachment to it sometimes.

I am worth a lot just as I am, and I don't need the stuff to reflect that.