*originally written for the church plant I serve on our blog – http://www.medinaanglican.com/blog , but thought the challenge may be extended here*
Lent is a lengthened season of preparation. Historically, Lent was a period of time where a believer would prepare for their baptism into Christ’s body. This meant they would study Holy Scripture and Church doctrine, undergo healing and exorcism, fasting, and giving money and gifts to the poor. Lent was also a season where those who were already baptized into Christ’s body (ah-hem, that’s you Church), would fast in preparation for the feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of our baptism.
This Lent I am sure many of you are devoutly abstaining from sweets, coffee, meat, fast food, TV, movies, social media, or food altogether. These practices indeed can be a good thing in and of themselves, but in practicing the good do not neglect practicing the best: intimacy with Jesus Christ. After all, we don’t abstain from the good gifts of creation (like pizza) in order to be grumpy, tired, or even pious before unbelievers.
We cease so that we may abide in God’s peace.
We save so that we may give to the least.
We fast so that we may feast.
Christlikeness in us increase!
This Lent I challenge you in the midst of fasting to make your relationship with God a priority (and please hold me personally to this challenge as well). As you fast from worldly desire, also fill yourself with the Word of God. In both the Old Testament and New Testament people are encouraged to “eat the scroll”. The Psalmist says that we are to “hide the word in our hearts that we may not sin against God.”
This Lenten season I am challenging you to read ALL twenty-one Letters in the New Testament and memorize seven verses. I’m not challenging you to performance. No gold stars or red markers here. I am simply calling you to be people of the Word, listening to the Letters of St. Paul, Peter, John, and others as they reveal the mysteries of God to you. Now some of these Letters are long (Romans, Hebrews, I Corinthians) and others are very short (Philemon, Jude, Titus), so plan accordingly and do not rush, take your time. Marinade your soul in the Word of God. Here are some pointers:
- Make sure you have adequate time to read one or more of the Letters.
- Be in a space where you can encounter God (whether a coffee shop or a quite bedroom).
- Read the letters aloud (these letters were originally written to be read audibly, so read them aloud like the first hearers would have experienced them).
- Read in one sitting. These letters (especially Paul’s) advance an argument or story and are best understood as a whole.
- Mark your Bible as you read and go back AFTER you finish to look deeper into the marked verses.
- When you finish reading, attempt to summarize the entire letter in a few sentences or even a few words.
- Write down key verses from each letter and attempt to memorize them.
- Interact with others with what you read. Ask questions, share learned lessons, spread the Word.
- If you commute to the work, try listening to the these on CD or get a bible app and listen to them on your smart phone.
- FYI – the 21 Letters of the New Testament are:
- Romans, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude.
I will be writing short (if the Lord gives me brevity) summaries and reflections from each of these letters as I go through them. Feel free to post questions, comments, how the Lord has touched you as you read them, or what verses you are memorizing. For extra reading, save the Four Gospels for Holy Week and Acts and Revelation for Eastertide.
May we all feast this Lent on a healthy portion of God’s Word, allowing it to be made flesh in us, so that the world may come to know in our words and deeds the Christ we proclaim. World without end. Amen.