so...today is the first day of Lent. Observing Lent wasn't on my radar at all this year, but I have observed it in the past.

First...what is Lent?

From Michael Horton at White Horse Inn:

I believe an evangelical celebration of Lent affords an opportunity to reinforce rather than undermine the significance of Christ’s person and work.

Lent is a 40-day preparation for the observance of Christ’s passion and Easter. It gives us an annual opportunity to trace the history of redemption. We learn that the number 40 is associated with a trial, a preparation, even an ordeal that leads either to blessing or curse in the stories of Noah, Moses, and Jonah. Recapitulating Adam’s trial and Israel’s 40 years of testing, Jesus was taken by the Spirit into the wilderness for 40 days, fasting instead of following Adam and the wilderness generation of Israelites in demanding the food they craved (Matt. 4:1-4). Resisting Satan’s temptation with God’s Word, Jesus was the Last Adam and Faithful Israel who fulfilled the trial not only for himself but also for us, as well as bearing the curse for our covenant-breaking.

Reformed folks take both sides of this. Not "you must or you must not: - but rather, "this is a matter of Christian liberty vs. no, it's not"

But...why do Lent?

I think that some observe Lent because their walk is lacking in other ways. When I was in a church that left me feeling dry and foundering, I observed Lent. I spent forty days focusing my devotional time on the coming Good Friday and Resurrection Day - it was time well spent. It took my eye off of what I was not getting in church, and what I already had In Christ.

Tim Challies has about the best take:

To those who plan to observe Lent, I wish you well and trust you’ll benefit from a time you’ve chosen to make special between you and the Lord. To those who plan not to observe Lent, I wish you well also and trust you’ll benefit equally from the so-ordinary, so-wonderful means of grace that are available to all of us all the time.

How do these work together?

I started "The Daniel Plan" by Rick Warren (and others) - yeah, yeah...same old, same old.  But as something to work through, there might be some meat there.

Consider the introduction of the book.

Stewardship.  Stewardship over my body.

Friends, I’ve been a poor steward of my health and a terrible example for you. While we’ve been helping many around the world, I’ve ignored the problem here at home.

So today I am publicly repenting, and I ask for your forgiveness! God expects us to take care of the bodies he has given us, but I have not done that. Now, I’ve only gained two to three pounds a year, but I have been your pastor for thirty years. So I need to lose ninety pounds! Do any of you want to join me in getting healthy?

Committing to giving my body to God first, is a way of putting the physical focus on Him, away from me.

Yet, in this season of Lent, of preparation, of looking forward in time to the work of Christ on the cross...it seems like a good time to start this way of thinking about health.

My body is not my own, it was purchased by Jesus, with His blood.

Today we make the same common mistake Greek philosophers did thousands of years ago. Aristotle, Socrates , and Plato believed in dualism, 4 which included the idea that your mind (or spirit) is important, but your body isn’t important spiritually. They devalued the body. In fact, some Greek philosophers taught that your body is evil, so it really didn’t matter if you messed it up.

The Bible tells us the exact opposite. Your body is holy because God made it, and everything God makes has a purpose. We are to bring glory to God with our bodies, so we can’t compartmentalize our lives and think that we can divorce our bodies and live as if only our spirit matters. God owns your body!

This year again, wheat is what I'm focusing on (I contemplated the "processed food" thing but that's a little too much to take in)

For Advent I went through "God is in the Manger" -

For Lent, I got "God is on the Cross" - another devotional that includes writings from Boenhoffer.

The first day of Lent:

"...And take up their cross...”

That cross is already there, ready, from the very beginning; we need only take it up. But to keep us from believing that we must simply choose any arbitrary cross, or simply pick out our suffering as we will, Jesus emphasizes that each of us has his or her own cross, ready, appointed, and appropriately measured by God.

~~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

If we choose our own suffering...is it a cross? Does "our cross" necessarily mean that we're suffering for God or the Gospel? Or is it just...suffering?

The idea that GOD has already chosen our path for us, has already appointed our "cross" - our way of suffering for Him, is comforting. It means that He is in control, He knows the path, He saves, He delivers, He KNOWS, and He has a purpose.

In our suffering, WE have a purpose.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

~~~1 Corinthians 1:3-5

we sang this in church this morning.  I'm still fairly new to the liturgical calendar and it resonates with me.

Lord, Who Throughout These Forty Days

1 Lord! Who throughout these forty days,
For us didst fast and pray,
Teach us with Thee to mourn our sins,
And close by Thee to stay.

2 As Thou with Satan didst contend,
And didst the victory win,
Oh, give us strength in Thee to fight,
In Thee to conquer sin.

3 As Thou didst hunger bear and thirst,
So teach us, gracious Lord,
To die to self, and chiefly live
By Thy most holy Word.

4 And through these days of penitence,
And through Thy Passion-tide,
Yea, evermore, in life and death,
Jesu! with us abide.

5 Abide with us, that so, this life
Of suffering overpast,
An Easter of unending joy
We may attain at last!

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This is the day that Christ gave us the ordinance of the Lord's Supper and the tradition of foot-washing.

This is the night that we are given the symbols of Christ's submission to our need for a Saviour and the symbol of servant-leadership.

When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them,  "Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.  (John 13: 12-17 ESV)

Christ was the greatest sovereign who had every walked the earth - God Incarnate; Immanuel.  Yet He gave this example in of service in His leadership.

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, "Take, eat; this is my body." And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom." (Matt. 26: 26-29 ESV)

and we are reminded of this later in Scripture:

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor,without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.  In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body (Eph 5:25-30 ESV)

Reflections on Holy Week

this is a cross on my street.
it sits here in honor of a fallen police officer
daily, it is taken care of
by friends, family, loved ones and comrades
who rememberthere is another cross
in our memory this week
many of us pass representations of this cross
daily, we are reminded of a risen Saviour
we, who remember, look forward to
Resurrection Day

(This cross has been here since July 9 of 2007 - the day after Robert Kozminski was shot and killed in the line of duty.  My son heard the shot. The man who killed him was found guilty of murder on March 5, 2008.

I am reminded of the guilt that took Christ to that other cross.  It was not the guilt of some guy who lived down the street.  It was my guilt. Not my sins - this sin or that sin.  It was my sins.  My sinful nature, every molecule of my being that rebelled against God.  And still does.)