Eventually though, I began to understand that these other kinds of Jesus followers were not the enemy, not the anti-Christ, but people who had spiritual insights and practices that I could learn from. Some might even be beneficial to my spiritual growth.
Back to Lent... One of the things I discovered was that Easter, separated from Lent, isn't as big of a celebration. However, when I go through the grieving of Lent - grasping the gravity of my sin and actually grieving over it, Easter becomes a hope-filled celebration that has a deeper and longer lasting impact.
Today, Ash Wednesday, we grieve over sin. Today, in the ancient tradition that displayed grief with sackcloth and ashes, we mark ourselves with ash - a reminder of our mortality (ashes to ashes, dust to dust) that is a direct result of our sin.
For many, the Lenten season includes fasting. Scot McKnight points out in his new book on fasting, that for the people of God, the why of fasting should be a response of grief and not a means to an end. I'll be posting some suggested fasts here through the Lenten season. I invite you to join me and some others in my community of faith as we make the journey towards Holy Week and Easter.
Here is a wonderful prayer to begin the season. It was written by St. Simeon, around 900AD.
A Repentance Prayer
Behold, O Christ, I now kneel before You in the presence of Your holy angels as if I were kneeling before Your fearful judgment seat, awaiting Your sentence and rendering an account of all my evil deeds.
Behold, I bow my head, and lay my sins before You, and I confess them and reveal them. O Lord, look down upon my humble condition and forgive me all my transgressions.
Have I not sinned through pride, vainglory, slander, idle speech, unkind laughter, intemperance, hatred, envy, selfishness, ambition and falsehood?
Now, O most wonderful King, O most loving Lord, show forth your mercies to me a sinner; manifest in me the might of Your goodness and the power of Your loving kindness; receive me as You received the Prodigal Son.
Against You alone I have sinned. O Lord my God, I put my trust in You; be my Savior, and according to your great goodness and mercy, absolve, remit, and forgive all my sins. Where sin has abounded, let your grace abound much more, so that I may give glory to You, and to Your Eternal Father, and to Your all-holy, gracious, and life-giving Spirit, now and ever, and forever. Amen.