Adult Education: The Discipline of Lent

+ Repentance, Prayer, Fasting, and Works of Love +

In our Ash Wednesday Liturgy we were invited to struggle against everything that leads us away from love of God and neighbors by exercising the Discipline of Lent: repentance, prayer, fasting, and works of love. These become the specific occasions and opportunities for spiritual renewal during this Lenten season of renewal. In these particular aspects of the Lenten Discipline, we focus our lives on Christ’s self-sacrificing passion, death and resurrection, which have brought us acceptance, forgiveness and redemption by God. Through that same discipline, we make a loving response to God.

 During the Sunday Adult Education session in Lent we will look at a different component of the Discipline of Lent:

March 5 – Repentance      March 12 & 19 – Prayer      March 26 & April 2 – Fasting      April 9 – Works of Love

Also, on each Sunday in Lent, you will receive a daily Lenten challenge related to the theme of that week in your email.  We invite you into intentionality, that is, to set a time each day to read and participate in the daily challenge.  Contributors to the week’s daily challenges are Randall Rutsch, David Potas, Kimberly Matney, Casey Burnett, Christian Meyer, and Pastor Mark.

We pray that we all are blessed through this Lenten exercise and truly experience a memorable Lent.

Week 6 – Works of Love

Download the Daily Thought and Challenge for Week 6 Here

Through the crucible of Lenten practices, we have been clearing head & heart space for a natural response to God’s love: that is to love others because God first loved us. Thinking of the idea of “works of love” may raise our theological defenses, as we ask “what about grace and mercy?”

We are not alone if confused; Luther repeatedly struggled with James’ claim that “faith without works is dead” as it seemed to conflict with Paul’s statement that “it is by grace we have been saved, and not by works.”  Tolerating any potential tension between these declarations in light of a restored relationship (through repentance) with God, that is repeatedly renewed (in prayer), and renunciation of worldly habits (fasting), we can find an adaptive and responsive path for works of love in each moment.

God acts today to restore all of the creation to a right relationship with Himself, between each other, towards nature, and to ourselves (Jn 3:17; Rev 21).  As we set about this week’s challenges to be about God’s work, with our hands, the challenges are not grand or novel. “For we can do no great things, or but only small things with great love” as Mother Teresa said, rather many works of love are not actions at all but shifts in attitude that take as much effort as moving a mountain. This week’s challenges hopefully create openings in our routines for letting His love in us come out and remind us that God is already using us if we tune in to our baptism promises.

Week 5 – Fasting (continued)

Download the Daily Thought and Challenge for Week 5 Here

Fasting comes to us from Judaism and was recommended by Jesus both in example and teaching (Luke 4:2, Matt 6:16-18, Mark 2:20). It is a practice that is designed to strengthen the spiritual life by weakening one’s attractions to pleasures of the senses. Thus fasting is always coupled with prayer and spiritual preparation. Fasting can come in many forms.  It’s not always about giving up food and/or drink. Abstinence from some activity such as television, movies, entertainment, habits, practices, thoughts, etc. is another way to observe the Lenten fast.

Week 4 – Fasting

Download the Daily Thought and Challenge for Week 4 Here

Fasting comes to us from Judaism and was recommended by Jesus both in example and teaching (Luke 4:2, Matt.6:16-18, Mark 2:20). It was also practiced by many prominent figures throughout scripture, including Moses, David, Elijah, Anna and Paul, yet there is no biblical command that all Christians must fast. But it is a practice designed to strengthen the spiritual life by weakening one’s attractions to pleasures of the senses and was assumed as a common practice by the disciples after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 3:2-3). God is always at the center of fasting, thus fasting is always coupled with prayer and spiritual preparation.

Valerie Hess provides a basic definition of fasting as “saying no to otherwise normal activities for the sake of intense spiritual focus.”[1] Fasting clears us out and opens us up to intentionally seeking God’s will and grace. Richard Foster[2] notes that more than any other discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us. We cover up the things that are inside of us with food or other distractions but in fasting these things will surface. Pride, anger, bitterness, jealousy, strife and fear may be revealed in fasting. And when revealed, we know that healing is available through the power of Christ. Fasting calls on us to trust God to sustain us (Mat. 4:4) and we can fast from anything that gets in the way of our relationship with God.

[1] Valerie E. Hess, Spiritual Disciplines: A Year of Readings

[2] Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth

Week 3 – Prayer

Download the Daily Thought and Challenge for Week 3 Here

Prayer may generally be described as that activity in which we are drawn closer to God in contemplation and communication. Prayer is our half of a conversation with God. That means that prayer is not only speaking, but listening as well.

Prayer finds its anchor and focus in the Sunday Eucharist with the community of faith – that Holy Supper in which we take God into ourselves by eating the Body and Blood of Christ. All prayer during the week springs forth from that union on Sunday and eagerly anticipates our Communion on the next Sunday.

It helps to have a consistent time and a quiet place for prayer, although prayer can happen anytime and anywhere. A cross or crucifix and a lighted candle can help create your place for prayer.

This week we will explore Centering Prayer. It was developed in the mid 1970’s to be a meditative type of prayer that was rooted in Christian spiritual tradition.

Week 2 – Prayer

Download the Daily Thought and Challenge for Week 2 Here

God wants to be closer to us. God wants us to be in communication with him – in thought, word and action. One place where all of these come together is in the act of praying. In our prayers we are moving closer to, and are engaged in, conversation with the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Prayer is special due to the nature of the participants – God’s child and God – and due to the nature of the conversation living a life as a servant of God.

There are many different types of prayer. Prayers of Thanksgiving (being grateful), Intercession (on behalf of others), Supplication (on behalf of yourself), and Worship (acknowledging the awesomeness of God) are just a few.  In every service you attend you engage in several types of prayer. Many different types are likely found around your dinner table, or in still moments at the beginning or end of your day, or in daily chaos when you simply need a moment of peace. We pray in the company of others, in community, and we pray when we are alone.  For each and every one of us there are many ways we pray.

It’s less important how you pray. It matters more to God that you pray, to be in conversation with him, to ask questions and to listen.  During this week we will focus on a few of the different types of prayer.  You’re encouraged to stop and pause before each daily prayer activity. Psalm 46:10 can be used to prepare for prayer – “Be still and know that I am God.”

Try repeating this, you may find yourself singing the tune you learned long ago:

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know that I am
Be still and know
Be Still

Week 1 – Repentance

Download the Daily Thought and Challenge for Week 1 Here

Repentance  is a change of thought resulting in a change of action to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In the context of our faith, it is the God-granted attitude of having sorrow for personal sin leading to the turning away from it towards a new life.  It also refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God (and others), and resolving to live according to God’s will. It typically includes an admission of guilt, a promise or resolve not to repeat the offense; an attempt to make restitution for the wrong, or in some way to reverse the harmful effects of the wrong where possible.

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