Lent 2011: Liturgy, Community, and Sacrifice

Growing up, I never really understood Lent. I grew up as a non-denominational protestant (which I remain to this day), and in my church tradition, we didn’t celebrate anything during this season except the big event: EASTER. I grew up with many Catholic friends who talked about how they were giving this or that up for Lent (by and large, “chocolate” still seems to be the most common one I hear) but no one ever explained to me the reasoning behind it.

While I was living in Tennessee, I was a part of a non-denominational church that had a deep appreciation for liturgy and the universal church calendar. This meant that I was finally exposed to the idea of Lent as a season of repentance and fasting deeply in a way that had deep significance. The first year, in 2009, I participated mostly as an outsider, ready to observe and learn, having just joined the staff. I failed miserably at my Lenten goals and wasn’t sure I was getting it. Last Lent, after participating in a full year of the church calendar and life as part of the body of All Souls, it was an extremely rich time. I recognized God moving in significant ways in my heart as he prepared me for major changes in my life.

This year Lent finds me living outside of NYC at another non-denominational church, with no formal corporate liturgy to lean on. I had come to love the practices that came along with Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday and the celebratory culmination of the season on Easter Sunday. At the start of this Lent , I was just beginning to come out of a season of deep frustration with God and feeling like he wasn’t speaking to me.

After years of somewhat scoffing at the idea of fasting for Lent, I finally participated, and I have to admit, it was so good for me. I had been thinking about taking a break from Facebook for quite a while, but I always came up with excuses for delay. By the start of Lent, the thought was still nagging me, and about a week into it, I knew I had to give it up. Reading “Why Lent is Good Religion” served as a catalyst for me to cut something superficial out of my life so I could add something meaningful in. So I bit the bullet and deactivated my account. “Do you really want to do this?,” Facebook asked. “But so-and-so will miss you!” As a ridiculously social ENFP, it pained me. But I followed through anyway.

In the past five weeks of my Facebook-less life, I have succeeded in spending some of my time more intentionally. As Hoboken Grace moved through a six-week discussion on prayer, Nick and I simultaneously hosted free-form prayer on Monday nights at our apartment based on the liturgical readings for each week. (So I did get to practice some liturgy after all!) As the weeks progressed, we came away feeling refreshed, more at peace, closer to our Abba Father, and more tightly knit as a church community. Over the course of this Lenten season, I have felt my heart move more and more into a place of joy and trust with God. I have seen him begin to answer prayers and desires that I have been talking to him about for over a year now. I am realizing that maybe I’m not quite as alone here in NYC as I thought, and that there are others here with a heart for prayer in community. Easter Sunday finds me deeply encouraged and excited about what God is doing in my life here in Hoboken.

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