A Season of Preparation Long ago, the early church prepared for the great celebration of Easter by a time patterned after Christ’s 40 days overcoming temptation in the wilderness. They used this season to prepare new believers for baptism, and also to join together in repentance and reconciliation, both to God and one another. We follow this model when we make commitments to time and stillness in prayer and the scriptures, to reflection and repentance, to turning away from sinful habits, and to serving others with a joy only possibly through the new life of Christ. Through this focused season of preparation, we arrive at Easter Sunday with a new awareness and appreciation of Christ’s defeat of sin and new resurrection life.
For the last eight years, our church body has come together to produce a Lenten Devotional for the building up of one another as we prepare for Easter. This year, we used this theme of “one another” passages to guide the wide variety of writers from across all age groups and ministry areas in our church.
You’ll notice that Sundays are set up a little differently, as those are the days we are physically with one another. We hope you will consider how being with one another impacts each part of our Sunday gathering. How are the elements of our worship service different, and how is God more glorified, because we are with one another?
As you daily read the Scriptures and corresponding devotionals, consider the following quote by Thomas Merton:
“It is normal and necessary for a mature Christian to have to confront, at some time or other, the inevitable shortcomings of Christians—of others as well as himself. It is both dishonest and unfaithful for a Christian to imagine that the only way to preserve his faith in the church is to convince himself that everything is always, in every way, at all times, ideal in her life and activity. History is there to prove to the contrary.
“Those who are able to face the imperfections of the church honestly have come close to the real meaning of their Christian vocation, and are now in a position to make the sacrifice that is demanded of adult Christian men and women: the realistic acceptance of imperfection and of deficiency in themselves, in others, and their most cherished institutions. They must face the truth of these imperfections in order to see that the church does not merely exist to do everything for them, to create a haven of peace and security for them, to sanctify them passively. On the contrary, it is now time for them to give to their community from their own heart’s blood and to participate actively and generously in all its struggles.
“It takes great heroism to devote one’s life to others in a situation which is frustrating and unsatisfactory, and in which one’s sacrifice may even be, in large measure, wasted. But here above all, faith in God is necessary. He sees our sacrifice, and he will make it fruitful, even though in our own eyes there is nothing apparent but futility and frustration. When we accept this grace, our eyes are opened to see the real, unsuspected good in others, and to be truly grateful for our Christian vocation.”
We need Christ, precisely because of our sin. We need each other, especially when we don’t feel like it. And others need us too, to find strength in our shared weakness, encouragement in our shared redemption, and hope in our shared future, all through Jesus Christ and His resurrected life within us.
“Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Ephesians 4:15-16
We hope this devotional will help guide you in a deep, rich time of reflection, teaching, and anticipation of the resurrection celebration. Being led by the vulnerable hearts and honest words of the members of our community, may God grant you a deeper experience of the real community shared in Jesus Christ this Lenten season. Take time to reflect on the marvelous provision of Jesus Christ for you and the community He has called you to love. Respond in prayer. Offer your heart’s impression for ongoing comment on this blog. Let’s share the real life of Christ together this Lenten season.
Your 2011 Lenten Devotional Team