A Little about Lent for the Modern Saint

Lent is the 40 days before Easter, not including Sundays, beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday. While people will say that it dates back to the Bible or to the 1st century, to be honest, Lent was a season made up by the Church to focus on repentance and devotion through the spiritual disciplines of study, fasting, prayer, and alms-giving. The number of days, 40, is a Biblical number with echoes of Jesus’ fast in the desert after his baptism, which in turn echoes the 40-day fasts of Moses and Elijah, not to mention the 40 days of the Flood and the 40 years in the desert. Still, Lent must not be identified as the same as anyone of those things. So the simple and honest answer is that Lent is a Season invented by the Church over thousands of years. 

While not in the Bible, the origins of Lent are the easier to trace than Ash Wednesday. In the first centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection, new converts to Christianity would be trained for months in Christian doctrine and Christian practices. This process of instruction is called catechesis, and usually involved memorizing an early form of the Apostles’ Creed. The emphasis during these months of training would have been on learning more theology (the Creed), learning more Scripture (the Stories), and learning Christian practices, especially Fasting and Prayer. Often, this training occurred in the months leading up to Easter. Finally, the weekend of Easter, the whole church would fast and pray from Friday at noon to Sunday at Sunrise. Then on Resurrection Sunday, all the new believers who had completed the catechesis, would be baptized and inducted into the then secret, underground church as together they celebrated the death of Death and the Resurrection of the Body.

CathedralHow this transitioned into Lent is difficult to trace with any certainty or clarity. Somehow, over the next 500 years, these months of training transitioned from a time just for new converts to a time for the whole Church to grow in faith, knowledge, and character through fasting, prayer, study, and Alms-giving. The Council of Nicea in 325AD played a large role in establishing this 40 Day Fast. The specific number of days, the starting date and ending date, the date of Easter, and the specific fasts and Fast Days during Lent were all, for better or worse, decided by the Church to promote uniformity and unity.

None of this makes Lent emphatically bad or “unbiblical” or heretically religious. Instead, it means that over the centuries between Christ’s resurrection and now, millions of Christians have practiced a sort of Spring Training. Christians across the globe have found Lent to be a rhythmic way to insert ancient practices like Fasting, Simplicity, Giving to the Poor (Alms), Study, and Daily Prayer as practical ways to FOLLOW JESUS and prepare to FISH for people. Lent is not “about giving something up,” so much as it is about getting back to the basic Christian disciplines. Like Spiritual Three-A-Day Practices they keep us in shape or like Spiritual Spring Cleaning they expose the idols and bad habits that have crept back into our heart. 

So should we practice Lent? Well, we should fast and pray and give to the poor and study God’s Scripture, and so if you want to create extra time dedicated to these basic rhythms of Christian life by sacrificing luxuries, then yes. If you just want to lose weight ahead of Spring Break or just want to gripe about being out of touch with the world cause you gave up Facebook, then Lent will probably do more harm to your soul than good.

In the coming weeks, I’ll write more about Lent and more about Fasting and Prayer and Study and such. For right now, let me point out that Lent is about intentionally doing those things we’re talking about each week in The Way of Jesus – I am Called to… Sermon Series. I will not hammer Lent or Lenten disciplines over the next few weeks, because we’re already talking about and encouraging one another to practice such things when we proclaim, “I AM CALLED TO FOLLOW, FISH, LOVE, WORSHIP, MATURE, SERVE, GIVE, SEEK UNITY, PRAY, and DIE.” So perhaps this year, you want to cut out one bad habit that keeps you from following, fishing, loving, worshiping, maturing, serving, giving, forgiving, praying, or dying. Instead, take one a specific task, such as daily Bible reading or nightly prayers or giving to the food bank that leads you further down these Ways of Jesus.

Celebration of DisciplineLastly, if you’re dying for ways to practice Lent, I cannot recommend Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline highly enough. Instead of reading all those Facebook posts about “40 Things to Give Up for Lent” or the “Reverse Lent Challenge” or some other pop-Lent, spiritual cotton candy, go out and buy this book and dig into some Filet Mignon.

Feb 18 – ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE CANCELLED

Due to icy conditions
the ASH WEDNESDAY SERVICE
scheduled for Feb 18 @ 7:00pm
IS CANCELLED.

Stay home. Stay warm. Worship with your family or by yourself over a good hot meal.

Let this cancelled service be a reminder that you and I are mortal. We are dust. We can and will die. There will be deaths today because of this ice. So let us use this day and everyday to enjoy the life and prepare for death.

Check back on Pastor Andrew’s Blog for more teaching on Ash Wednesday, Lent, and mortality.

Stay safe friends,
Pastor Andrew

No Ash Wednesday Service on Feb 18, due to icy roads.

No Ash Wednesday Service on Feb 18, due to icy roads.

Spiritual Gift Assessments

In Creole dialect, they have a word, lagniappe (pronounced LAN-yap), which means something extra beyond what you paid for. It’s usually a little extra soup in the pot or a little extra grain in the bag, but it is always gratuitous, gracious, extra.

Consider this blog a little lagniappe regarding the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, also known as Spiritual Gifts, or the Gifts of the Body or Gifts for Ministry, or Charismata in Greek. On Sunday, February 15, 2015, I preached a sermon entitled “The Way of Jesus - I am Called to Serve," because all of Jesus' followers are called to serve his Church. 

DSC_2970Oakland is awesome at serving. It is one of our collective, corporate strengths, and I celebrate it weekly. Still, I want every one of our servants to serve in ways that give them life, that fill them with joy, and that fulfill real needs in the Church and community. I want you to crave opportunities to use your gifts to bless people. You are called to serve not as a warm body in a bureaucracy, but as a gifted member of God’s family.

When I am operating within my primary gifts of Knowledge, Teaching, and Preaching, it feels like someone plugged me into the wall. It feels like I’m finally doing what I was made to do – to show people how every aspect of life is informed and reformed by Jesus. 

Like I said on Sunday, the chief of all charismata is “eternal life through Christ Jesus” (Rom 6:23). The Holy Spirit applies Christ’s finished, saving work on the Cross to each of us. In plain English that means the Holy Spirit gives us credit for everything Christ has, including a perfect life and a perfect relationship with God the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a tangible proof of this gift, the Holy Spirit gives individuals particular gifts. In that sermon, I spoke specifically about the gifts named in Romans 12:4-8, but there are plenty of other gifts named in the Bible, especially 1 Corinthians 12:7-10 and 12:28.

To give you an idea of what gifts are possible, and begin the process of serving with your gifts for your joy and the community’s benefit, I suggest a Spiritual Gift Assessment. There is no science to finding your gift, and a one-size-fits-all test is certainly not failproof, but Spiritual Gift Assessments provide great starting points for discovering your God-given gifts. They cause you to think about the things you do instinctively and joyfully. Our gifts often feel “natural” or like “the obvious right thing to do,” so we can take them for granted.

LIFEWAY SPIRITUAL GIFT ASSESSMENT (PDF)

For years, I have used this Spiritual Gift Assessment published by Lifeway. It is not perfect, but is a trustworthy tool to start discernment. It includes brief descriptions of each gift, and even suggestions for places to serve. It is a Self-Scored Survey in PDF format, so it is great for pencil-and-paper kind of folk.

SPIRITUALGIFTSTEST.COM ASSESSMENTS FOR YOUTH AND ADULTS

If you’re more of a “let the computer do the math” kind of person, then I recently discovered and tried out 2 other tests at SpiritualGiftsTest.com. As cheesy as the name sounds, they provide more than adequate descriptions of each gift, and the survey is full of refreshingly normal questions.

You are welcome to take and compare both tests. As you seek to find your gifts and seek to implement them in service, I’d love to chat personally. If you’d like some help, call the office to set up a chance to chat.

SERMON: The Way of Jesus (Part 6) – I am Called to SERVE

The Way of Jesus (Part 6): I am Called to SERVE
You don't volunteer at your church, any more than you babysit your own kids.

Pastor Andrew Ruth
February 15, 2015
Romans 12:4-8
Luke 22:24-30
AUDIO
There are dozens of Spiritual Gifts named in the Bible, but this sermon specifically discusses the following gifts named in Romans 12:4-8.

Prophecy

Serving

Teaching

Giving

Leadership

Mercy

"The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet." — Frederick Buechner

So, NEXT STEPS:

1.) Start to identify your unique Spiritual Gifts.
Start by completing this simple assessment, and then find a time to talk to Pastor Andrew or a Spiritual Mentor.
2.) Research the needs around you - at Oakland and in Cleveland.
Your gift was given to meet real needs.
3.) START SERVING AT CHURCH LIKE YOU BABYSIT YOUR OWN KIDS.

 

Weekly Reading Plan

This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan.  Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to GIVE, so this week we will be reading about honor God with our money using this WEEK 7 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.

 TheWayOfJesus-I am called to - Week 7 Reading Slide

Feb 18 – Ash Wednesday Service

Ash Wednesday Service
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
7:00PM

Not sure what Ash Wednesday is? Neither were we until we showed up to our first Ash Wednesday Service. Don’t worry, Pastor Andrew will explain it all on Wednesday, but for now, just know that Ash Wednesday is the reason Mardi Gras was ever invented.

But seriously, Ash Wednesday is the first event in anticipation of Easter Sunday. The time between now and Easter is called by church folk, “Lent,” and serves as a Spiritual Spring Cleaning and Spring Training to reset our clocks and allow us time to think about and digest all the import of Resurrection.

SERMON: The Way of Jesus (Part 5) – I am Called to MATURE


 

The Way of Jesus (Part 5): I am Called to MATURE
Reborn complete but not finished.

Pastor Andrew Ruth
February 8, 2015
Proverbs 9:1-6, 9-10
Hebrews 5:11-14
Luke 8:4-15
AUDIO

Take inventory

Maturity is a process not a destination. There are mature 5 year olds and mature 65 year olds. The 5 y/o is not immature because she is not 65. You are not immature unless you are not growing in your ability to FOLLOW, FISH, WORSHIP,LOVE, GIVE, SERVE, PRAY, FORGIVE. Maturity is relative, but overall if we could plot spiritual progress on a chart, we’d hope it looks like a good retirement account – full of ups and downs, but overall trending northward. So first step, take some time this week to take inventory. In general are you more faithful, generous, joyful, knowledgeable, loving, forgiving than you were 5 years ago?

Stop Stunting Growth

Stop habits that stunt your spiritual growth. Continuing to walk in known, revealed, habitual sin after being REBORN is like smoking in elementary school, it stunts your growth. It stunts your spiritual growth and kills your body when your body should be growing. You will never completely stop sinning on this side of Heaven, but that is no excuse to keep pet sins.

Eat More

Find a way to eat more. Take one step to either increase the quality of food you’re eating or the quantity of food you’re eating. When I first started to grow in my faith, the fella discipling me, Chad Shelley is his name, told me, “Ruthy, if you’re going to grow you need to always be reading. Reading the Bible and some book about the bible.” I’d say the same to you. If reading isn’t your preferred learning method, then maybe go on iTunes and find a podcast. Find a musician that sings gospel truth and marinate in that on your way to work.

Work Out

Practice. Work out. Muscles get bigger when we use them. Senses are honed through repetition. Remember, you never learned to walk without falling. You never learned to ride a bike without trying. You never learned to read without errors, but you had help. Your momma or daddy or teacher or grandmomma held your arms and walked with you. Spiritual growth happens the same way. Your faith will never grow, unless you intentionally put yourself in situations where you need God to show up or else you crash and burn.

Weekly Reading Plan

This sermon series includes a weekly Bible Reading Plan.  Each week we read in preparation for the sermon coming next week. Next week we will discuss The Way of Jesus - I am called to SERVE, so this week we will be reading about serving the Body of Christ with our Spirit given gifts using this WEEK 6 READING PLAN. Tips and suggested questions available on the PDF.

 TheWayOfJesus-I am called to - Week 6 Reading Slide