What in the world is a Pentecostal pastor doing leading a Lent devotional? Am I becoming Catholic? Was it the whole point of the Pentecostal movement to kill this dead religion? I am fully aware that people are fearful that one day I’m going to be using words like Advent and Lent and the next day I am going to be worshiping Mary and praying to pictures of dead people.
What kind of craziness am I involved in?
My family moved to South Florida shortly after I was born. My mother was escaping an abusive situation and was protecting us. On the other hand, we were completely cut off from all of our extended family and I spent a lifetime only knowing my mother and sisters. There was an occasional visit from an uncle or my grandmother and I knew I had other family but I didn’t know any of them.
That is exactly what Pentecostal Christianity is. You know you have some sort of extended family, but you also know that you left them for good reasons even if you don’t know what the reasons are. What they do has nothing to do with what you do and their history has nothing to do with your history. You are a new lineage. You are in a new covenant. God is doing a “new thing” and you are at the center of it.
At least that’s how it’s portrayed.
A funny thing happened on the way to Seminary
in seminary I learned the rich Christian history Pentecostals descend from. We aren’t quite the reformers or trailblazers we think we are. We are standing on the shoulders of great Christians who stewarded the mystery of Christ for 2000 years. They debated the intricacies of theology that we now take for granted. They fought off heresies, false apostles, false revivals, the invasion of false religions, and diligently guarded the faith passed down for all the saints.
Early in my walk I would read Finney, Edwards, and Ravenhill and my heart would burn within me. In seminary I experienced a similar burning reading Athanasius and the Council of Chalcedon. From there I studied both earlier and later trying to answer the prophetic question, “How did we get here?” I consumed all I could about the theological history of our faith.
This lead me to the Didache which was also known as The Lord’s Teaching Through the Twelve Apostles to the Nations. Though it is pseudonymous, it represented with the early church believed the teachings of the apostles were and to my shock and disbelief they talked about how to do church stuff. I learned of Lectionaries and the Daily Office.
Us Pentecostals rarely have confidence in any plan, teaching, or ritual that was created more than five minutes earlier. We have elevated so-called revelation to the place of idolatry, and I saw how this was destroying believers’ faith.
So what is Lent?
Lent is a 40 day period between Ash Wednesday and resurrection Sunday not counting the Sundays. More importantly, it is a time of introspection to see where we have fallen short of the promise we made at baptism. But it’s not doom and gloom. We look back and inward knowing that our God is waiting to not only restore us to our baptismal identity but to propel us forward into the identity he created us with.
I am convinced that the greatest problem in the Pentecostal church is we refuse to answer the question “How did we get here?” We walk blindly after our own lusts and passions claiming to go from revelation to revelation but in reality it is just systemic escapism.
Lent is part of the bigger church calendar which is designed to have us meditate on all aspects of the earthly ministry of Jesus, not just the parts they give us the warm fuzzy feelings and packed church services.
What is the Church Calendar?
The church calendar, also called the liturgical year, keeps her focus on Jesus. A church that follows the liturgical calendar throughout the year teaches on the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus and the gift of the spirit every year. Year after year the same stories about the life of Jesus are taught in the church baptizing believers in a holistic understanding of who God is and why Christ came.
This isn’t sexy stuff. This isn’t the deep-fried Oreos you get at the state fair. Into that the liturgical calendar could get stale and boring. But it doesn’t have to be. There is plenty to get excited about, get people’s faith stoked with, and foster moments of divine encounter.
So this Lent I am expecting to encounter the Holy Ghost of God in a profound way as I look inward to see where I have fallen short, and look outward to the opportunities God has placed before me to be the person he’s called me to be.
What am I doing for Lent?
Normally, the palm branches from Palm Sunday are saved and burned, and those ashes are applied to foreheads on Ash Wednesday. I’m not at a place where I am ready to do that. I don’t judge anybody who will walk around with ashes on their forehead today, it’s just not my tradition. Will I do it in the future? Who knows. But as of right now the ashes I bear our emotional and spiritual.
Traditionally Lent is a period of self-sacrifice. To that regard there are things I am abstaining from for my personal sanctification. Lots of people talk about what they give up for Lent but my Pentecostal heritage tells me to never talk about what you are fasting. I don’t judge anybody else who does, it’s just kind of a thing still stuck in my psyche. So there are things from which I will withstain.
My normal daily devotions circle around the revised common lectionary daily readings. So I am already reading scriptures surrounding this church season. In addition I am reading a Lent devotional with others. I am also praying into how I will do acts of charity and justice in this season.
What can you do?
No matter where you are on your spiritual journey you can use this season to grow closer to God. Choose to abstain from something in this next 40 day period. You can join us on our devotional journey by clicking right here. You can also seek where the Lord may enable you to do acts of justice and charity.
But if you simply spend the next six weeks setting apart time with God asking the question, “how did I get here?” Ask, “What part have I played in the successes and failures of the last couple years and what can I do to be on the path God has for me going forward?” Maybe ask, “God, what is my life supposed to look like and how do I get on that path?”
This kind of spiritual housecleaning will set you up for the rest of year and launch you on a trajectory toward God’s blessings in your life.
I will leave you with a prayer from today’s Daily Office reading on this Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.