A Radical Emptying: Lent

6 02 2014
Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Spiritual Formation Ministries

Katie Harmon-McLaughlin, Spiritual Formation Ministries

by Katie Harmon-McLaughlin,
Spiritual Formation Ministries

As we cycle through our Christian story, what will the season of Lent mean in your life this year? Lent is a journey of Christian simplicity. It is the time in the liturgical year that prepares us for Holy Week and Easter.

Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun and author, describes Lent as a time that “calls each of us to renew our ongoing commitment to the implications of the Resurrection in our own lives, here and now.” The journey through Lent is the purging of “what is superfluous in our lives and the heightening, the intensifying, of what is meaningful.”

In a world that often measures worth by accumulation of wealth, success, and prestige, we are reminded during Lent that we follow the One who denied all of those things to demonstrate God’s kingdom vision. Lent offers us a yearly necessary pause to examine our lives in the light of the cross.

As we journey once again toward the cross, we strip ourselves of the distractions and distances we have placed between ourselves, God, others, and creation. Lent is a time of fasting, of radical emptying, so we can draw ever closer to the One we seek. We practice repentance and experience reconciliation. On Ash Wednesday, Christians come face-to-face with their own mortality—from dust we come, and to dust we will return. This has the power to cut to the heart of things as we consider this enduring question: What matters most?

This part of the story may be the hardest to understand and one of the most important. It evokes diverse theological perspectives and many lingering questions. It continues to be a reorientation of everything we thought we knew about power and success.

This Christ pattern of death and new life leads us through what we dread to what we love. It reminds us that things most worth our lives are not usually easy. At some point each of us who claims to follow Christ must stand before the cross. We respond to the call, “Come follow me,” remembering that resurrection hope sustains along the way.

Fasting: A Spiritual Practice

There are tremendous spiritual and social implications to living Lent. The practice of fasting confronts a culture that continually tries to get us to accumulate more than we need. I can hardly think of a more culturally subversive act than this: to utter aloud the word “enough.”

Our own rest from the race toward excess allows creation a rest, too. For a brief moment, we are not asking for anything other than what already is. We may see more clearly the beauty or injustice that surrounds us when we step outside ourselves and really notice what is there.

Fasting also connects us with those around the world who do not have regular opportunity to participate in what we have given up for this intentional time. If fasting from a meal, how do your own hunger pangs help you remember those who do not know where their next meal will come from?

To fast is to empty ourselves of that which distracts or separates us from relationship with God. Because we encounter God within ourselves and the world around us, relationship with God contains both of these dimensions. Fasting is an opportunity for deeper and more intentional connection. Giving something up simply for the sake of giving it up misses the point. It is what we do in the place of what we have given up that matters.

During this Lenten season, there will be practices and opportunities in the Herald and online (www.CofChrist
.org) for you to be intentional in your journey of emptying out and reconnecting with God. We invite you to journey with us in sacred community, practicing together, and anticipating the new thing God is doing within us!



One response

6 02 2014

Sometimes we get so caught up in the traditions of our faith that we forget the purpose and meaning behind them. Good article Katie ~

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