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Monday, March 4, 2013

A Suggestion for Lent

            It is the middle of Lent, an odd time to begin a Lenten spiritual discipline.  Traditionally a Christ-follower begins a Lenten discipline on Ash Wednesday.  One gives up something for the purpose of drawing attention to faith.  I have, in past years, given up coffee, certain radio programs, red meat, and other things.  When I would long for the burger or the latte, my longing would remind me how much I need Jesus and I would confess my sins and focus on my dependence upon God.

            We are now three weeks past Ash Wednesday, so I am not proposing you give something up Lent 2013.  I am making a suggestion.  Read a book about Jesus.  I am going to read a book by a New Testament, Gerard Sloyan.  I may also consider something by Geza Vermes or Wayne Meeks.  You may not find these works edifying or interesting.  Other excellent writers who have studied Jesus in detail and then written about him are Phillip Yancey (The Jesus I Never Knew) and Tim Stafford (Surprised by Jesus).  Max Lucado has written numerous books that focus on the cross and resurrection.  His works are pastoral and devotional.

            Perhaps you are particularly toward sitting and reading.  If books aren’t your thing, I still encourage you to check out one of the ancient biographies of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John).  And also, if you have access to cable TV, watch and see if the History channel is doing any specials on Jesus.  Often that network will devote several shows to documenting aspects of Jesus’ life and the history of early Christianity.  A word of warning: the History Channel is secular and will not necessarily treat the history of Jesus from a faith perspective.  Knowing that and knowing that a program might not affirm your Christian faith, you can glean a lot from the presentations offered by the History Channel even if you don’t agree with the conclusions.

            There are also great movies about Jesus.  The Passion of the Christ directed by Mel Gibson was controversial when it came out.  It is worth reading up on the controversy.  For me, the film is a moving depiction of the ordeal Jesus endured.  That film along with The Jesus Film and others you might find have the potential to fix your mind on Christianity and specifically on Jesus as we move through Lent toward Easter. 

            The main thing is setting our minds on Christ.  Whether it is Bible reading, reading commentary by Christian authors (e.g. Yancey), TV or film, shift your attention.  We have our favorite reality shows, crime dramas, sit coms, or whatever.  We have our favorite movies and our favorite novels.  My Lenten suggestion to you is to put that input aside and let Jesus-focused program and stimuli by what you put into your mind for the next three weeks.  In this way, we have Jesus on our minds when Palm Sunday and Good Friday and Easter Sunday arrive.  Making ourselves Jesus-focused, we experience the drama of Easter with keen senses and receptive hearts.  We see Easter in a new way.  And we come out of Easter knowing Jesus at a deeper level.

            That’s my Lenten suggestion to you.

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