Participating in Lent

By Rev. Mark McKim, First Baptist Church St. Marys

Although Lent is not mentioned in the Bible–and is therefore not binding on anyone–countless Christians across the centuries have found the observation of an annual period focused intently on the spiritual disciplines to be beneficial. At First Baptist Church, St. Marys Lent is marked in a number of ways. Naturally, the sanctuary is decorated with the sombre liturgical colour of purple, and flowers are kept to a minimum. As a pastor, I frequently go “off-lectionary” during Lent in order to do a “big picture” overview, chiefly from the Old Testament, of God’s actions, across millennia, to restore and rescue creation – a plan which culminates of course in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Each year congregants are also offered an opportunity to participate in suggested Lenten disciplines. A tear-off sheet in the bulletin, upon which a person indicates their choice of discipline, may be placed on the offering plate on the first Sunday of Lent as part of one’s offering. This year we focused on the three most traditional disciplines: prayer, giving, and fasting – but with some modern adaptations.

Those choosing the prayer discipline were to pray daily for an opportunity to speak about Christ to a non-Christian. The “giving” discipline invited donations to CBM’s “Ukraine Appeal.” Folks were given two options for fasting: The “traditional” approach was to give up certain foods or one or more meals each week (Friday being recommended as a way of bringing home, in a small way, the suffering of Jesus on that day). Those taking the “contemporary” approach were to recognize that most of us have far too much “stuff.” Each day they were to pick an item (clothing, furniture, electronics, or whatever) they didn’t need or weren’t using, set it aside in a box or bag, and, at the end of Lent, donate the collection to the local Thrift Store. Rather than leave folk to undertake their disciplines entirely on their own, this year, one of our deacons will also be leading an informal conversation one evening toward the end of Lent for those who like to discuss what they have learned or experienced as a result of their Lenten discipline choices.