A Special Lenten Message
from Bishop Charles Travis
The season of Lent has not been well observed in much of evangelical Christianity, largely because it was associated with "high church" liturgical worship that some churches were eager to reject. However, much of the background of evangelical Christianity, for example the heritage of John Wesley, was very "high church." Many of the churches that had originally rejected more formal and deliberate liturgy are now recovering aspects of a larger Christian tradition as a means to refocus on spirituality in a culture that is increasingly secular.
Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter. Originally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized, a time of concentrated study and prayer before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord early on Easter Sunday. But since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation. Also, this was the time when those who had been separated from the Church would prepare to rejoin the community.
Today, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance. This season of the year is equal only to the Season of Advent in importance in the Christian year, and is part of the second major grouping of Christian festivals and sacred time that includes Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost. Which brings me to the heart of what I want to discuss with you. I want to propose the following trajectory for our jurisdictions from now through Pentecost. There is no greater need, in the church and beyond, than to re-calibrate our lives to the purposes of God through fasting, prayer, a renewed understanding of all that was accomplished on the cross, in the grave, on resurrection Sunday, Christ's Ascension, and Pentecost with its promised empowerment of every believer for the mission of the Church!
Therefore, I would like to propose that we take the Lenten through Pentecost seasons as an intentional time to refocus and develop a more defined vision and mission statement for the Apostolate and DOF.
The first phase is to use the Lenten season as a time to re-calibrate our personal lives toward a more disciplined "rule of life". Also, during this Lenten season we will have a reaffirmation service of our vows for Holy Orders. A date and place will be forthcoming.
Second, please take Holy Week, and especially Maundy Thursday, to read and research for new insight into the events of this historic week. Read the accounts of this week from the gospels.
Third, having done the above, prepare yourself for the most powerful crucifixion, burial and Resurrection Sunday ever.
Fourth, reread all of the gospel and Acts accounts of the last 40 days Jesus spent with His disciples before ascending to the Father. What was the focus of His message to them? How does it apply to us today?
Fifth, like the disciples, take the ten days before Pentecost to prepare yourself for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. Expect this encounter to prepare you for a new season of empowered service for the Kingdom.
Finally, I want to ask for your input with any suggestions you may have on ways and means to improve our jurisdictions and service to our members. I will be sending you an update on some of the great things happening through our ministries locally, nationally and internationally.
May God bless and be with you all during this Lenten Season.
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts.
See if there is any wicked way in me (Psa 139:23-24).
Your fellow servant,
Bishop Charles Travis