Archives for posts with tag: The Upper Room

Ash Wednesday 4Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. This forty day period (not counting Sundays) ends on Easter Sunday. This year it is from February 10 (Ash Wednesday) to March 27 (Easter), 2016.Lent 1

Lent is practiced by most, but not all, Christian groups. The emphasis is on spiritual purification, meditation and penance. The focus is not supposed to be on one’s self, but one’s relationship with God. Although it is not required, people often give up something during Lent as a means of self-discipline and identifying with the sacrifices that Christ made. Many choose instead to take on something during Lent like reading more of the Bible, diligently observing daily devotional times, or completing some work of charity.

Mardi GrasI grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a big part of our culture. However, I did not make the connection of this time of revelry with spirituality. I did not know that Mardi Gras meant “Fat Tuesday.” Since Lent always starts on a Wednesday, the day before is always a Tuesday. And it’s called “Fat” or “Great” because it’s associated with great food and parties. I suspect that most people see Mardi Gras as a big party that has little to do with preparing for the Lenten season of repentance and simplicity.

Fat Tuesday

According to The Upper Room,* “In earlier times, people used Lent as a time of fasting and repentance. Since they didn’t want to be tempted by sweets, meat and other distractions in the house, they cleaned out their cabinets. They used up all the sugar and yeast in sweet breads before the Lent season started, and fixed meals with all the meat available. It was a great feast!”

“Why ashes? In Jewish and Christian history, ashes are a sign of mortality and repentance. Mortality, because when we die, our bodies eventually decompose and we become dust/dirt/ash/whatever. Repentance, because long ago, when people felt remorse for something they did, they would put ashes on their head and wear “sackcloth” (scratchy clothing) to remind them that sin is pretty uncomfortable and leads to a sort of death of the spirit. This was their way of confessing their sins and asking for forgiveness.” (The Upper Room)*

I gathered with others for Ash Wednesday service last night. At the beginning of the service we joined in saying,

O God of endless mercy, we gather on this day to acknowledge our mortality and our complete reliance on you for compassion and forgiveness. If there is any hope for us, O God, our hope rests completely in you. Have mercy, O God, have mercy. You are the source of our mortal life. You are the source of our spiritual life. You are the destiny to whom we return in the hope of Jesus Christ, our risen Lord and Savior. May the mark of mortality remind us of our dust-to-dust existence, and draw us nearer to you.

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Later we knelt at the altar and one of the ministers applied the sign of the cross on our foreheads and reminded us of our mortality and our need for repentance and forgiveness. Then we united in the Prayer of Confession:

Most Holy God, your Son came into the world to save sinners. We come to this season of repentance, confessing our unworthiness, asking for new and honest hearts, and seeking the healing power of your forgiveness. Almighty and Everlasting God, you hate nothing that you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are repentant; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, so that we, lamenting our sins and acknowledging our separation from you, may obtain from you perfect remission and forgiveness. We ask this through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever. Amen

Ash Wednesday 1

We have started the Lenten journey which will lead us to the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday. During these days with God’s help, I hope to become a better person and follower of Christ. I pray that the days of Lent will do the same for you.

Jamie Jenkins

*The Upper Room is a global ministry dedicated to supporting the spiritual formation of Christians seeking to know and experience God more fully. From its beginning as devotional guide, The Upper Room has grown to include publications, programs, prayer support, and other resources to help believers of all ages and denominations move to a deeper level of faith and service. The Upper Room is a part of Discipleship Ministries of the United Methodist Church.

What are you giving up for Lent? Whether you are a religious person or not, the practice of fasting can help you to become a healthier and happier you.

Fasting is a spiritual discipline that may be practiced at any time and generally means abstaining from food or drink. It is especially associated with special religious observances.  Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, and Taoism all advocate some form of fasting—from short periods to days, and even an entire month.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar (June 17-July 17, 2015), is observed by Muslims as a month of fasting. This annual observance is regarded as one of the Five Pillars of Islam. While fasting from dawn until sunset, Muslims refrain from consuming food, drinking liquids, smoking, and engaging in sexual intercourse. In some interpretations, Muslims also refrain from other behavior that could be perceived as sinful, such as swearing, engaging in disagreements, backbiting, and procrastination.

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Christians observe Lent, forty days before Easter (February 18-April 4, 2015), and it is intended to assist in growing closer to God. The Upper Room says, “Some Christians use the whole forty days to fast from candy, TV, soft drinks, cigarettes, or meat as a way to purify their bodies and their lives.” It is suggested that one might give up one meal a day and use that time to pray instead.

Fasting

 

In The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “If there is no element of asceticism in our lives, if we give free rein to the desires of the flesh (taking care of course to keep within the limits of what seems permissible to the world), we shall find it hard to train for the service of Christ.”

Researchers from the University of Florida did a three-year study that concluded that fasting caused the gene related to anti-aging in our cells to increase, which can lead to longevity. The study also indicated that fasting could strengthen the body’s natural preventive processes that protect against future diseases. (read a full report on the study at http://www.takepart.com/article/2015/03/09/fasting-diet-study-lent).

Fasting can, however, refer more broadly to “giving up” anything at any time. Ideas include giving up “some activity like worry or reality TV to spend time outside enjoying God’s creation.” The idea is to “fast” in order to focus on God.

FASTING 2 There are a lot of things that a person might “give up.” Things that clutter the calendar and complicate life. Resentment, anger, and bitterness are destructive emotions that are like cancer that eat away at a person from the inside. Why not give them up?

Pessimism and cynicism prevents one from seeing the bright and beautiful in every day life. Finding fault with others leads one to de-value the worth of persons and gets in the way of seeing the good that God has invested in every individual. Give them up.

Although you might have made mistakes, beating yourself up constantly does no good for you or anyone else. An adversarial posture as one’s usual attitude only works against you. Gossip and criticism may seem harmless but they can do serious damage. These attitudes and actions diminish yourself and others. Give them up.

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We are in the middle of the season of Lent but whether you “fast” from negative behaviors such as those mentioned above- and there are many others- for religious purposes or not, you will become a healthier and happier person when you give them up. After all that is God’s intentions for you (John 10:10).

 

Jamie Jenkins