Christians have long associated the season of Lent as a time to identify with the suffering of Christ. We are reminded that Lent is the journey to Jerusalem and ultimately the cross where Christ suffers for all. Many of us enjoy giving up something we like to identify with Christ’s suffering. Although incomparable, we do feel a want or desire for those things we cannot have. For Christ it was a want to live, knowing He had to surrender His life.
The word Lent is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning spring. The earliest records of the Christian church calendar show many Christians celebrated and held special Masses during March. March was the month often associated in antiquity with the coming of spring. Pagans would celebrate a spring festival in March. As pagans became Christians the two festivals were combined and celebrated as the season of Lent.
Early Christians celebrated Lent somewhat differently than we do today. Lent was a time where they not only identified with the suffering of Christ but, more importantly, repented of previous sins, made restitution with neighbors and focused on their relationship with God and church. Last week’s Lectionary Scripture Mark 1:9-15 tells us Jesus preached, “repent for the time is now.” Lent, according to this scripture begins with repentance. What does that mean?
Repent is a funny word. When someone repents, our first thought is they are admitting guilt and asking for forgiveness. Repent has a different meaning. It does not mean asking for forgiveness in the context we think. To repent means to surrender your ways and turn to the ways of God. It means we are giving up control of ourselves to the work of the Holy Spirit. Repenting is the act of stopping what we are doing and doing what God wants us to do.
You often hear the phrase in our culture “live and let live.” You live your life and I will live mine. Don’t judge me and I will not judge you. This phrase and definition produces another famous catch phrase. “I never killed anyone; therefore, I am a good person.” What’s the common denominator in all of these catch phrases? The letter “I.”
We have a common misconception in our nation and in our churches that as long as I am doing my own thing and not hurting anyone “I” am ok with God or the universe, depending on your belief system. This contradicts our definition of the word “repent.” If we are truly surrendered to the ways of God, then even doing our own thing is a contradiction because it’s not a God thing. Justifying by believing as long as we don’t step on toes or cause harm still doesn’t hold water when it comes to God. God demands total surrender. Turn away from our ways and humbly submit to the will of God.
This Lent season not only surrender something you like to God, but surrender yourself to the will and ways of God.
Rev. RJ Leek has served Gwynedd Square Presbyterian for over three years. Rev. Leek is a graduate of Dubuque Theological Seminary and began his career in Youth Ministry. He has been in full time ministry for over 21 years, and Head of Staff for the past 10 years.
He enjoys weightlifting, comic books, movies, history and following his favorite college and professional sports teams. He has been married to Trisha, his college sweetheart for over 26 years. They have three children Claire, Robbie and Chloe.
Feel free to stop by the office anytime to talk, tell a few jokes or chat about the latest Star Wars movie.