The Goal of Lent

Lent is a time of self-discipline and self-denial. We follow Jesus to the cross and Lent reminds us that there is a cross for us to bear as well.

Self-denial or cross-bearing isn’t a very hot selling idea.  I keep waiting for a magic pill that will keep me fit and trim, but I know by experience that only self-denial (like keeping track of my calories) and discipline (like keeping up my exercise routine) will keep me fit and healthy. So, why would we think it would be different with our spiritual and mental health?

There are no silver bullets. There were none for Jesus, and there are none for us. The road to Resurrection Life, then and now, goes by way of the cross. It feels better to:

  • Sleep late than it does to rise earlier, pray, read and meditate.
  • Buy that new iPhone than it does to tithe or give money to help those in need.
  • Stay home and watch TV, or read the paper and drink coffee than it does to get dressed and go to worship.

It is no accident that “discipline” and “disciple” are almost the same word. Abby is having our kids “train to be disciples” by having them keep track of daily spiritual disciplines. Hopefully it’s the beginning of a life-long habit. The disciplines, the crosses, of Lent have as their goal the new life that we call Easter. Easter is not the end of Lent; it is the GOAL of Lent. The Christian life is not to have less death, but more life! We live in a day obsessed with feeling good. If we have an ache or pain we take a pill. If diet or exercise don’t have immediate results we quit. If a relationship gets tough we walk away. We want Easter, but we don’t want Lent.

I recently heard about a teenage girl who went to see a passion play. She got so caught up in the story, when Jesus was arrested tears began to stream down her face. When he was tortured she began to weep, and as he twisted in agony on the cross she began to sob. Finally someone turned to her and said, “Don’t cry. It’s just a play. It’s only a story.”

But it wasn’t. It was the road to life… for all of us.

About Norman Bendroth

Norman Bendroth is a Professional Transition Specialist certified by the Interim Ministry Network. He has served as a settled pastor in two United Church of Christ congregations and as a Sr. Interim pastor in seven other UCC congregations. He was also an executive for three different non-profit agencies. He has had additional training in Mediation Skills for Church Leaders from the Lombard Mennonite Peace Center and training in Appreciative Inquiry from the Clergy Leadership Institute. Rev. Bendroth has the M.Div. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and his D. Min. from Andover Newton Theological school where he concentrated on theology and systems theory. He is married to Peggy Bendroth and has two adopted Amerasian children.
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