Lenten Discipline

Some people give up sweets.

Some people give up drinking.

Some people give up Lent.

Some people just give up.

As a culture, we have pretty much given up disciplines like Lent. Boomers shed “rules” beginning in the 60’s. Churches went out of their way to assure people they were not required to do anything. It was not uncommon to hear people boast about what their church did not require them to do: for example, dressing up, fasting, confession, tithing. Such a negative approach to one’s faith formation does not provide much of a foundation to build upon. (Excerpted from Sundays and Seasons, 2010)

As a congregation, we have decided to go Back to the Basics, taking our cue from Martin Luther who encouraged constant attention to the basics of the faith through study of the catechism. Our Sunday morning discipline during Lent includes readings from Luther’s Large Catechism, which are sermons Luther gave as part of his instruction to pastors and church members. Here’s what Luther himself said about the discipline of study.

“I am a doctor and preacher, just as learned and experienced as all of them who are so high and mighty. Nevertheless, each morning, and whenever else I have time, I do as a child who is being taught the catechism and I read and recite word for word the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. I must still read and study the catechism daily, and yet I cannot master it as I wish, but must remain a child and pupil of the catechism – and I also do so gladly.

Let all Christians drill themselves in the catechism daily, and constantly put it into practice, guarding themselves with the greatest care and diligence against the poisonous infection of security or arrogance. Let them constantly read and teach, learn and ponder. If they show such diligence, then I promise them and their experience will bear them out – that they will gain much fruit and God will make excellent people out of them. Then in due time they will make the noble confession that the longer they work with the catechism, the less they know, and the more they have to learn.”

I invite you to try out the disciplined life this Lenten season, taking Luther seriously on your need for daily attention to your faith. Start with Sunday mornings as we review and ponder the basics: the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism and Holy Communion. Add the discipline of prayer. Instead of fasting, take up a new faith practice. Ponder your generosity, giving freely to others.

Don’t give up Lent. Take it up.
Pastor Colleen Nelson