Lent is a time of preparation for the initiation of people into the Christian life in baptism. It is also a time for the church to journey together toward Easter and the reaffirmation of the baptismal covenant. Lent is not about being miserable, sad, and funereal in anticipation of Good Friday. The Sundays of Lent are not part of the forty days of Lent and so remain "little Easters," as are all Sundays. Fasting and giving up something can be part of Lenten disciplines, but so can taking on some things. How does your church help seekers and members to connect worship and daily growth in spiritual, relational, emotional, and bodily fitness?
The following is a resource that you might use as a model for inviting the congregation to take an inward and outward journey. Adapt it according to what your church and community offer. Include it in your worship bulletin on Ash Wednesday and on the First Sunday in Lent. Keep extra copies in the literature rack for people who miss those times of worship. "My Preparation for Easter" is based on an actual piece developed by a church I served in Chula Vista, California.
My Preparation for Easter
Lent is a time to prepare for Easter. It is a necessary prelude. The death and resurrection of Christ are true whether or not I prepare for Easter. However, without my heart and life being ready, I may not experience the depth and power. of Christ's death and resurrection. So with my brothers and sisters, I commit myself to disciplines for conversion from sin and death to love and life in Jesus Christ. With the aid of the list below, I make the following commitments to discipline and growth for the next six weeks:
(Check the ones you desire or feel prompted to do; circle the ones you then decide to do.)
Inward and Personal Disciplines
___ Spend time in solitude each day.
___ Share in the Lenten Series on Sunday evenings.
___ Read a book for inner growth.
___ Read twice through the gospel of the lectionary cycle you are in. (Matthew and John in 2014)
___ Begin to keep a journal of prayer concerns, questions, reading.
___ Focus on thanksgiving, rather than on asking, in prayer.
___ Give myself a gift of three hours to do something I always say I don't have time to do.
___ Find a way to go to bed earlier or sleep in so I get enough rest.
___ Make a list of people with whom I need to be reconciled. Pray for them and let Jesus guide me in my thinking and feeling toward them.
___ Take control of my life by ______________.
___ Go to all of the Holy Week services as an act of love and waiting with Jesus.
___ Take one hour to inventory my priorities and plan how I will reorder them.
___ Give up a grudge or a rehearsal of a past event.
___ Forgive someone who has hurt me.
___ Dance my prayers to a favorite tape or CD.
___ Use The Sanctuary for Lent (epub, available from Cokesbury).
___ Other promptings:
Outward and Social Disciplines
___ Take on some loving task:
___ Plan to visit a "shut-in" neighbor or church member weekly.
___ Write a letter of affirmation once a week to a person who has touched my life.
___ Go on the Women's Retreat (dates ________)
___ Listen and respond to Christ's call to a ministry of service:
___ Go to coffee or dinner with someone I want to know better.
___ Begin to recycle waste from my home and workplace.
___ Give blood and recall the cross.
___ Call the AIDS project and ask how I can help.
___ Say "NO" to something that is a waste of money and time.
___ Pray to God to help me resist racial prejudice and to give me courage in opposing it.
___ Decide to become a member of the church and speak to a pastor or lay leader.
___ Rebuke the spirit of criticism and my own tongue out of control.
___ Find a way to live out the baptismal promise to "resist evil, injustice, and oppression" in the power and liberty God gives us by ___________________
___ Other outward and social promptings:
As a way of being accountable, I will either:
___ Share my intentions for Lent with my Covenant Discipleship group at its next meeting, or
___ Share my plan with at least one other person and share with that person my experience of Lent during Holy Week.
Keep this for reference during the coming weeks.
The following is a list of resources that you may want to consult or secure:
- Cokesbury has The Sanctuary for Lent available in print for quantity purchase as well. You may want to supply each household, nursing home and prison or jail you visit with copies. Physicians, attorneys, or others with waiting rooms may wish to supply copies for their patients or clients as well.
- Paul Turner has prepared a nice little book titled What Am I Doing for Lent This Year? Although the booklet is written specifically in a Roman Catholic context, it is useful for United Methodists. It contains directions for personal planning of Lenten observances and has a journal included.
- You can find out more about Covenant Discipleship here.