Archive for February, 2014

What is LENT and why observe it?

February 25, 2014

Next week is Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of LENT. Lent is the season of fasting and self-denial observed by many Christians in the days preceding Easter Sunday each year. The word “Lent” comes from a word meaning “lengthening days,” with the Lenten season consisting of forty days in early spring. Since Easter’s date moves each year based on the lunar calendar, Lent’s dates vary from year to year. However, each year it begins on Ash Wednesday, which occurs sometime in February or early March.

Where Did Lent Come From?
Lent is neither commanded nor implied in the Bible. Instead, it is a tradition that developed slowly over the first several centuries of church history. During the first three centuries of the church Christians often prepared to celebrate Easter with a short preparatory fast of one, two, or more days. In about 190 AD the church father, Irenaeus, called Christians to fasting for short periods of time before Easter. These early, pre-Easter fasts were used to mark the time between the death of Jesus and his resurrection, and to prepare one’s heart for Easter Sunday.

How the short pre-Easter fasts of the first three centuries evolved into Lent is not entirely clear. Some early Christians in Egypt held a forty day fast beginning January 6 in imitation of Jesus’ own time of fasting. Those preparing for baptism on Easter in Rome would fast for three weeks prior, and something similar happened in other places at different times of the year. By the fourth century as Easter came to be seen universally as the primary occasion in the year for baptism … these customs developed everywhere into a standard forty-day season of fasting immediately before Easter.

Christians from a variety of traditions see it as a time of prayer, repentance, and self-sacrifice for the purpose of focusing their attention on Christ and His sacrifice in the days leading up to Good Friday and Easter Sunday.

Lent begins on a humble note on Ash Wednesday when people make their way to church to receive an imprint of ashes on their forehead in the form of a cross. These are to remind us of our mortality and our dependence on God as well as the sacrifice of Christ, which makes it possible for sinful people to go to God.

Why Forty Days?
Forty is a significant number in the Bible. It is a number associated with anticipation and preparation. Moses waited on Mt. Sinai forty days to receive the Law (Ex. 34:28), Israel wandered in the wilderness for forty years before entering the promised land (Ex. 16:35), Elijah walked forty days to meet with God at Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:8), and most significantly, Jesus fasted for forty days in the wilderness before his temptation (Mark 1: 6f)

Today Lent lasts six and one half weeks, with exactly forty days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. Sundays have never been included as fast days, since celebration rather than fasting should characterize every Sunday—the day Jesus rose from the dead.

So join us at Sugar Hill UMC next Wednesday, March 5 at 7 pm for our AshWednesday service and let’s start this journey together. The service will be interactive and family friendly for all ages 4 and up. We will also provide weekly devotions for individuals and families to use to focus on the main themes of Lent: focusing on God’s presence, confession, forgiveness and trusting in Jesus who came and lived, died and was resurrected. You can pick a copy up a free copy in the church lobby or download it each week starting March 10 from our website.

Source for much of this research: Jack Santino, All Around the Year: Holidays and Celebrations in American Life (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 102.


Will Buford Be the Next Gwinnett Place Mall?

February 23, 2014

My wife and I moved to Buford, Georgia about three years ago. We love the hills and countryside right up against the conveniences of shopping, doctors, churches, schools and restaurants. Many visionary leaders in this city have sacrificed and dreamed to make this one of the best places to live in our state in my opinion.

YET all of this can be lost so quick. Suburbs can reach a tipping point and our community is fast approaching that point. When you drive down Highway 20 in front of the Mall of Georgia, traffic is often at a standstill at midday. Yet the city commissioners are approving numerous additions to this same area that will greatly increase the congestion.

My home is located off of Bogan Road. A developer has proposed building a hotel, 2 restaurants and 3 office complexes literally in our back yard. Today I walked through the pristine woods behind our home and prayed for divine protection. This is one of the few wooded parcels left untouched in our area. There is a stream that is 12-15 feet wide in places with cascading waterfalls.

I believe with all my being that our Creator God intended for us to walk and meditate in places like this often. You see we humans came from the dirt and to the dirt our bodies shall return when our souls go on to Heaven. We tend to neglect the innocence of nature at the price of greed and commerce. Yes, there is a tipping point when our desire for material things infringes on our health, well-being and threatens the very nature that sustains our planet.

This is a wonderful place to live. Why would anyone allow it to become like the areas closer into Atlanta just for a larger tax base and more business? I think our Creator grieves with me and others who see it slipping away for civic idols.

Snow Sledding in Georgia

February 15, 2014

It felt like I had returned to my childhood when I rode the snow sled this past week. It has been many winters since we had enough snow to enjoy the sled like we did last week. We bought that sled about 12 years ago and our kids never got to use it. We have enjoyed it twice since they went to college.

I love the thrill of the cold wind soaring by my head as you sail down a hill. A year ago we were sledding down the Alps with our daughter and her husband who were living in Germany. Racing downhill on a sled can restore a man’s sense of youth. I loved it and was faster than anyone in our family!!
Of course that was due to my daredevil style and mostly my weight!

I took some of our neighborhood kids sledding on a hill behind our subdivision. I think they really liked seeing the pastor careening down the hill and rounding the curves like a mad man. They wore me out and I came home exhausted. It was a good tired with many good memories.

Well the snow is gone hopefully for another season. But I do hope it returns next winter so I get pull that old sled out again. Thank you Lord for sun and rain, snow and ice and most of all, the dedicated public servants that took such good care of our city and state last week. We were blessed by their service!