By: Dr. Eddie Estep
February 17, 2021, was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season called Lent. Ash Wednesday gets its name from the custom, in some Christian denominations, of placing ashes on the forehead as a sign of penitence. The ashes are obtained by burning the palm branches from the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration.
Lent is to Easter what Advent is to Christmas—a season of preparation. Lent lasts 40 days, not counting Sundays, and is marked by repentance and renewal. It is a special time for meditation, prayer, and recommitment to Christlike discipleship.
Often people “give up” something for Lent. Fasting—the giving up of something we usually enjoy—is a key theme during the 40 days. To fast is to sacrifice something as a reminder of the supreme sacrifice Jesus made for us. Sometimes people give up meat, or chocolate, or soft drinks, or desserts. Some people fast from food for several days; others give up one big meal a week or do without between-meal snacks. Others give up watching television, or playing video games, or certain social activities. Still others determine to “give up” selfishness, or impatience, or anger.
Lent is not only a good time to “give up” something; it is also a good time to “take up” something. Take up a good habit. Take up a spiritual discipline. Take up some positive act that will help your neighbors. Don’t just “give up” something—“take up” something.
“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himselfand take up his cross daily, and follow me.” – Luke 9:23
Perhaps one of the practices you could “take up” during Lent is the daily practice of praying for your neighbors. Every weekday, I receive an early-morning email from “Bless Every Home,” inviting me to pray for five of my neighbors—their names and addresses appear in the email, along with a suggested prayer like this recent one:
Suggested prayer for yourself and your neighbors
Dear Lord, I pray that You would bring peace into the homes of this neighborhood. I pray that where there is discord, pain, or darkness – You would bring reconciliation, healing, and light. – Philippians 4:6-7
To become involved in Bless Every Home and see their significant resources, please check out their website: https://blesseveryhome.com.
Let’s rediscover how special 40 days can be.
–-Dr. Eddie Estep is the Kansas City District Superintendent in the Church of the Nazarene.