This year Lent commences early in February. The forty days of Lent that lead to Easter is the most sacred and spiritually powerful event in the Christian calendar. Ash Wednesday sends us a signal to 'remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return,' to the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday, to the joyful Easter song of 'Christ the Lord Is Risen Today'.
Lent is a time when Christians are invited to examine their faith and deepen their commitment to live the Christian life. It is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a period of fasting, repentance and spiritual discipline. The purpose is to set aside time for reflection on our Lord Jesus Christ; to relive the story of his suffering, his sacrifice, his life, his death, the burial and resurrection. Having said that, I observe that not all Christian churches observe Lent, in particular the Chinese churches. Lent is mostly observed by the main denominations such as Methodist, United Reformed, Anglican, Lutheran and Roman Catholics. When we refer to the Bible, it does not mention the custom of Lent. However, the practice of repentance and mourning in ashes is found in both Old and New Testament. For your bed-time reading see 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21.
Since we are part of the Methodist Church, we have learned to respect this pilgrim journey and hope to grow and discover the walk with Christ alongside each others. We are pleased that Dr George Chew, one of our Local Preachers will lead the devotion during Holy Week on three themes: The Servant, The Cross and Betrayal. We pray for good responses in remembrance of Jesus’ life on earth. He is with us and among us.
It is easy to focus on what we are doing for Lent. In fact, Lent is about God’s love for us. God, the Father draws His people to Him, He manifests His love to us through His Son. These forty days of reflection and meditation are meant to draw us into a deeper knowledge of that love. My personal thought is to bear personal witness. Lent is an unique time for us to mend our brokenness, rekindle our relationship with God and with one another in Christ. Though I am passionate in preaching and teaching, am I living up to my professed faith? Perhaps, the words of preaching remain true but the practices make it hard for others to believe what I preach. Actions speak louder than words, I believe I need to practise what I preach.
On the other hand, Ash Wednesday allows Christians to be physically "marked" with the sign of our faith, but it is easy for us to go through life as spectators to our faith as opposed to being active participants practising what we preach, not only in word but in our actions as well. I love to listen to others during my pastoral visits. Quite often people will say, “I don’t do much, not as many things as you do”. I disagree with them because the word “witness” is someone who is able to testify to what he or she has seen and experienced personally. Last week, a young man gave a powerful testimony at the baptismal service. Since he opened his heart for Christ, his life has changed. His brokenness is no longer there, he sees bright light ahead of him. He described how things had been; he graduated with a good civil engineering job, got married, self-proud, no need for God, all things were achieved by himself until his marriage did not work out and ended in divorce. Now he has found Christ, and he has been a different person, a happy all round person, he is now one of the active leaders of young people.
Jesus gave his disciples this promise: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." (Acts 1:8) Since the disciples had seen Jesus in action personally and heard his teachings with their own ears, they were credible "witnesses" to their world and beyond. The Holy Spirit is your internal guide in witnessing. God can "speak" to you through the Holy Spirit. Sometimes the Holy Spirit will put a very strong impression on your mind that you should speak to a certain person. Go ahead. Follow through with this. Many times you'll find that the Holy Spirit has been preparing them and that they're ready to hear your testimony of what Jesus has done for you. Who are the people whom God has put around you to love, to pray for, and perhaps to be a witness.
Let us pray together that Lent 2012 will make a difference at EMC so that we can live up to words and deeds.