Lent can be a time of transformation

For Christians, the butterfly is a symbol for Easter, but long before the butterfly displays its beauty, it has gone through several periods of transformation. It begins as a caterpillar, then spins a cocoon and enters a dark, tomb-like stage of transformation.

The 40 days before Easter, which are called Lent, are the cocoon-type stage in our spiritual formation, when we intentionally deny ourselves indulgences and imitate the life of Jesus, for the sake of others.

Instead of worship as usual on Sunday, our congregation will have a Day of Service, when we will serve others through 13 different projects such as feeding the hungry, offering free health checks, beautifying downtown and working with Habitat for Humanity.

To expand our daily spiritual practices, we will give away Lenten devotional booklets. We will have a special Lenten study on the Gospel of John.

A Lenten fast is a way to deny ourselves, or do something which makes us uncomfortable as part of our spiritual transformation. I know I am addicted to sweets, and this year will try to avoid eating desserts.

Others will exercise; give up alcohol, or even social media. A pastor in Colorado is encouraging his congregation to fast from marijuana during Lent. Marking the season with self-denial makes breaking the fast on Easter more sweet and joyful!

— Dale Clem, First United Methodist Church, Anniston

We practice repentance not just at Lent

Growing up, in my parents’ home, we went to church often but were never taught to observe Lent. As I grew older and traveled to different parts of the world, meeting different people and being introduced to different denominations, Lent was not something I was introduced to. Now, as an Assemblies of God pastor, I do not observe it.

Although we do not observe Lent, we understand the suffering and temptation that Jesus endured in the wilderness. In the Christian faith, some of us practice repentance, fasting and self-examination year-round.

In the congregation I pastor, we set aside time at the first part of the year when we corporately abstain from certain foods, television, social media and spending intimate time with our spouses in order to focus on our relationship with the Lord. We understand that it is not by works, but by a walk of faith. Apostle James wrote, "Show me your faith without your works and I will show you my faith by my works" (James 2:18). Where there may be different methods used to remember Jesus’ suffering, we should all do whatever we can to show the world that the ultimate sacrifice was made to restore mankind’s broken relationship with God.

— Winfred Logan, Heart to Heart Ministries