This time of year leading up to Easter traditionally invites pilgrims to reflect and re-consider the essentials of the Christian faith. Last fall, Greg Carmer, dean of Chapel, and his staff invited several from the Gordon community to contribute their thoughts for a community reflection. The result is a Lenten Devotional: The Hope Before Us. The following is Dr. Carmer’s introduction to the series:
“Lent has traditionally been observed as a season of fasting, self-examination and purification in anticipation of the great celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Starting on Ash Wednesday and running until Easter, Lent consists of forty days of fasting plus six Sundays. In some traditions, Christians observe Lenten fasts only in the few days immediately preceding Easter, others fast the first, fourth and sixth weeks of Lent, while still others fast every day of Lent with the exception of Sundays. Likewise, there is a wide range of ways to keep fasts. Writing in the late fourth century, Socrates Scholasticus described the diversity with which Christians of his day kept Lenten fasts:
‘Some wholly abstain from things that have life; others feed on fish only of all living creatures; many together with fish, eat fowl also, saying that according to Moses, Genesis 1:20, these were likewise made out of the waters. Some abstain from eggs, and all kinds of fruits; others partake of dry bread only; still others eat not even this; while others having fasted till the ninth hour, afterwards take any sort of food without distinction.’
Diversity continues to mark the ways in which Christ-followers prepare for Easter. Today, in an effort to make room in our busy lives and open space in our hearts, believers may find it more helpful to abstain from using social media than to eat only fish.Choosing to “give something up” for Lent can be a good way to remind ourselves of the wonderful grace we receive from God through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. Likewise, adding new habits of prayer, Bible study, simplicity, service or silence can also provide openings in our lives for the Spirit to convict us of sin, convince us of God’s grace, and help us grow in the direction of gratitude and holiness.
However you choose to observe Lent, it is our hope that this collection of meditations by Gordon College faculty and staff may be of help to you. May you reflect on the mercy you have received through Christ, and cooperate with the Holy Spirit in making your life a pure reflection of the grace you have been given. We pray that an attitude of freedom and thankfulness will mark whatever, if any, practice you embrace. As Socrates Scholasticus reminds us, fasts and religious ceremonies are not a requirement for our right standing before God; the command to love God and neighbor does not extend to observing the demands of tradition. Rather, Easter is to be ‘honored by the gratitude of the recipients of grace.’
We pray that your journey to Easter through Lent will take you deeper into the knowledge of God’s grace and fill you with overflowing gratitude.”—Dr. Greg Carmer