The past year has left an imprint on all of us – especially on our time. More than ever, we desire a sense of normalcy and some semblance of control over our time. Regularity and rhythm are byproducts of a life ordered around the story of God.
For over 1,500 years, the Church Calendar has been a way Christians have ordered their lives around the narrative of Jesus. Split into ordinary time and seasons, the Church Calendar marks major points in the life of Jesus Christ. His birth (Advent) and resurrection (Easter) are the more well-known occasions, but the calendar also includes Epiphany (the manifestation of Christ), Lent (the temptation and death of Christ), and Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit).
Currently, we find ourselves in the Lenten season. Depending on your background, Lent may seem rote, contemplative, somber, antiquated, unfamiliar, or some mixture of these. Simply summarized, Lent is the 40-day period (excluding Sundays) that leads up to Easter. This time represents Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11) with other parallels to Old Testament narratives like the flood (Genesis 7:12 & 8:6) and the giving of the Law to Moses (Exodus 24:12-18). Ending with Holy Week, the Lenten Season has historically been marked by self-examination, fasting, and abstinence from things that pull our focus away from God.
This past year has warped our sense of time. It imposed restrictions on our lives in strange ways. For some, the past year contained more moments with immediate family. For others, it was an intensely isolating period. This shared experience has generated a strange form of nostalgia for predictable schedules. So how do we reset our pace of life in the ways we want? How do we narrow our focus towards experiencing the things that really matter to us?
Orthodox Judaism prescribes observation of the Jewish law, the recitation of daily prayers, and participation in specific rites of passage (Bar Mitzvah/ Bat Mitzvah). In the religion of Islam, Ramadan is one of the five foundational pillars required by all able-bodied Muslims. Ramadan is one month of fasting, devotion to prayer, and the recitation of the Quran. Modern spiritual-but-not-religious individuals across the Midwest self-prescribe practices like Bikram Yoga and the use of a gratitude journal weekly. Notwithstanding the specific practice, humanity feels diminished when there isn’t a sense of regularity and rhythm.
For Christians, the Lenten season is a time each year that helps us regularly re-examine ourselves in light of God’s story. Many things have happened in us and to us over the previous year. What frustrated you? What disappointed you? What surprised you? What captured you?
Unlike other world religions or spiritual practices, Lent is an invitation to see yourself in direct relation to God in the person of Jesus. He entered human history as a human. He engaged with the same kinds of feelings and experiences you have encountered over the past year. There are no set commands or recitations for the season of Lent. The call is much more contemplative. Set aside to reflect and individually reorient your whole self (your time, your attention, your regular activities, etc.).
But it is not meant to be done entirely alone. You are connecting to a community practice that hundreds of thousands across the world are engaging in at the same time. Millions of Christians throughout history have engaged with the very same story of Jesus in this repeated season year after year.
So much of our reliable practices have been disrupted. Consider taking the rest of Lent to accept the invitation to a hard reset. The beauty of the Lenten season is that it is on an annual cadence. You can pick up in the middle of Lent and begin engaging with God alongside many in our own church. This year, Vineyard Columbus is journeying with Jesus through Lent by means of an audio devotional. Available only on the Vineyard Columbus App, for the 33 weekdays of Lent there is a 10-minute audio devotional with musical accompaniment and read by diverse Vineyard members, with a digital print version also available on this website. Click here to journey with us!