In most church leaders’ lives, Lent has been a time of denying oneself of something, in order to gain a deeper awareness of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives. This is the theological predisposition we have inherited in modern Christianity. But more importantly, the story of releasing that which occupies our thoughts and desires is the story of the faithfulness of our Biblical leaders.
The Greek translation of Jeremiah speaks of persons becoming empty (Kenoo) where there is pain and people becoming lost in their own trials and fear. The people of Israel become desperate for God and divine order during the Exile. God is present but they cannot hear the Lord’s voice.
Like Paul emptying himself so he could more fully receive the Holy Spirit, we too need the rituals of releasing our distractions and turning toward the Lord. So many have prayed for there to be less of themselves and more of Christ. This process of release and fulfillment is a constant in the Christian journey. This is a common prayer for me as well.
Finally, Jesus empties Himself for our sake. (Philippians 2:7) He released all divine power and stripped himself of all things so he would take on the cross for our sake – human like us. Jesus chose to do nothing for Himself and had to rely on the Father’s will. “I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 5:30) So how can we do anything but seek the will of him who sent Jesus?
With Easter always looming ahead of us during Lent, pastors have a load to carry. There is no getting around the workload of Lent. However, carrying the workload alone and without the guidance of the Holy Spirit in us, for our families, and for our churches, is just a labor in vain.
My prayer for us this Lent is that we have the courage to lay down the load before the Lord Jesus Christ. Pause and empty ourselves of… well… ourselves. Open our hearts and hands. Then pick up whatever the Lord guides us to do. Prepare for Easter as Jesus prepared for Jerusalem: with His face set resolute toward the mission ahead. God will do the rest.
Peace for the Journey,
Pastor Jim Powell, North District Superintendent