Sermon: Lenten Renewal

Lenten Renewal
Mt 6:1-6
18 Feb 2018
Pastor Paul R. O’Neil

As a global church, we are the 40 day season of Lent, a time when believers spiritually prepare themselves for Easter and give up something as a means of spiritual discipline. According to Twitter, the most common things that are sacrificed are:

  • Chocolate and sweets
  • alcohol
  • expensive type of coffee lattes
  • meat
  • certain forms of entertainment

It is believed such sacrifices will make us more attuned to God, and we will thus experience a holy and happy Easter.

However let me introduce a new concept of observing lent, suggested by guest speaker Pastor Roy Richardson at the Ash Wednesday worship service at the Crystal Lake United Methodist Church. Pastor Roy said he was not going to give up anything, but was going to add on or take on more. To me, that was so positive and affirming. Now there are lots of things we could do that would make a difference in terms of our Christian lives and service, but let me suggest one spiritual area that we could take up, add on, or perhaps improve: prayer.

“But when you pray, go to your room. Shut the door and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”

To me prayer is like going to the gym or beginning an exercise program. We know it is good for us and we will certainly reap benefits. When we are finished, we will feel better about ourselves. But the hardest part is taking the first step. It is the same thing with prayer. Once we get focused and started, it flows. In this Lenten season, I would encourage all to set aside time, find your rhythm and establish a routine. It could be morning, noon or night. Jesus got up early in the morning and then he prayed late into the night.

But to make this work, we need to be realistic, especially if we have never really done this before. What I suggest is to make a plan.

  • Establish the occurrence of your prayer: daily, once a week, etc.
  • Find a place where you can be alone.
  • Set up a candle or place a cross on the table.

You may want to add prayer to your daily walk.

Once that is done clear your mind of any distraction. Visualize that God is present.

  • Read Psalm 23, The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.
  • Ask for guidance.
  • Ask for forgiveness
  • Ask for healing.
  • Ask for help for family members.
  • Remember the sick.
  • Thank God for your blessings.

Your time with God may last just a few moments, but it will become the best part of the day.

Reverend Hector Mendez of the Congregational Church in Stafford told a story at the Ash Wednesday Service as it related to prayer. When he was a kid, he identified with the story of Popeye the Sailorman and the effect of spinach. Whenever Popeye was in trouble, he reached out for the spinach and that saved the day. As a child, Hector could make the comparisons. Spinach=Strength; Prayer=Strength.

When we were stationed in Panama from 1993-1996, the people in Central and South America observed a several week festival which they call Carnival. During Carnival they indulge in food, drink and partying; this would all stop on Ash Wednesday

In New Orleans the people observe Mardi gras, French for Fat Tuesday, which is essentially the same thing.

Shrove Tuesday is another term which is used in churches. This is the last day of fat eating before Ash Wednesday, and some United Methodist Churches have fundraising Pancake Dinners.

But instead of bemoaning what we might be missing out, let’s make Lent 2018 different and meaningful. Instead of giving up, let’s reignite our prayer lives.

“But when you pray, go to your room. Shut the door and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.”