Lent: A season of joyful sacrifice

By John W. Coleman

Ash Wednesday is the first day of the holy season of Lent, when we commemorate Jesus’ 40 days of preparatory self-denial, including sacrificial fasting, in the wilderness. Many Christians will celebrate today in worship that includes the imposition of ashes on their foreheads. Some will continue to attend midweek Lenten services through Holy Week, until Easter. (There are 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday excluding Sundays.)

On Ash Wednesday, it is important to look beyond the day and consider the season, to draw needed strength from today’s worship for tomorrow’s witness, and to ponder not only what we give up but also what we take on. Lent is not a time to “just say no,” but to also say “yes” in embracing new commitments and a new life in Christ who makes all things new.

UM Communications staff writer Joe Iovino offers some good suggestions in “10 ideas for a more meaningful Ash Wednesday.” But many of those ideas can work wonders for the soul if practiced as disciplines throughout the season of Lent and beyond. You could attend midweek worship every week, especially at different churches. Or try taking on a giving, serving spirit that prompts you to do for others, even outdo others, in sharing your time, talents and treasure with grateful generosity.

Don’t just abstain from some bad habit. Replace it with a good habit and try to find satisfaction or even pleasure in that new routine. Explore your gift of creativity by creating or restoring something with your own hands. Practice abiding in stillness and emptiness, while filling your mind and moments with prayer and deep reflection, while listening for God. Add more time to this abiding practice daily or weekly, as it gradually delivers a peacefulness that you look forward to.

Iovino has more detailed ideas that you can easily extend over 40 days and much longer. Learn more. And for more Lenten insights and resources, read other related articles on www.umc.org, including:

NOTE: We would like to promote Lenten midweek worship services and Bible studies involving clusters of churches and Mission Connections across our conference. Please send us your collaborative schedule, to communications@epaumc.org, so we can add it the conference website. Thanks!