Lent is a time to make a difference
The season of Lent began this week on Feb. 22 — Ash Wednesday. Opinions vary on when Lent ends. Some traditions believe that Lent ends with Holy Week beginning with Palm Sunday, April 2. Others observe Lent ending on Maundy/Holy Thursday or Easter/Resurrection Sunday.
Lent is a 40-day period. If one counts each day on the calendar, the total is 46 days, not 40. So how is Lent a 40 days within an actual 46-day period? The key is Sundays. Our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead on a Sunday, and we continue to celebrate his resurrection on Sundays all year. Sundays are not fasting days even within the season of Lent and thus are not counted.
Is Lent an exclusively Catholic tradition? No. Many observe Lent including Anglican, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Orthodox, Presbyterian, etc.
Why Lent? Lent is a time to closely follow our Lord Jesus Christ as he journeys to Jerusalem, trials and the cross. Lent is a time to grow by pondering your faith, asking questions and finding meaning.
What does one do for Lent? Are there cards, lights, candies and decorations? No, there’s none of that. Lent is not a joyful festival. Many give something up for Lent — that’s referred to as “fasting.” Many fast from chocolates. Lent is more about your soul than your diet.
I invite you to pray and ponder what is interfering with your faith. Answers vary and include addictions, screen time, conflicts, narcissistic self-righteousness, sin, etc. The same thing that interferes in your relationship with God is likely interfering in your relationship with family and friends. Lent isn’t easy, but it can be life changing. Pray and ask God for discernment. Taking time for self-examination, repentance, prayer, and reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word will help with your discernment.
In addition to fasting from something interfering with your faith and life, Lent is also a time to make a difference. Consider volunteering at the Food Bank, Helping Alaska, the Rescue Mission, etc. If that seems too much, then reach out to the person, or persons, that you haven’t talked with since the last funeral.
Lent 2023, like Lent 2022 and many other Lents, is in a time of war. The war in Europe between Russia and Ukraine is now over a year old. Conflicts continue around the world and polarization in America. Make Lent a little more pleasant by setting politics aside, helping one another, and praying for peace.
I invite you to the observance of a Holy (and life-changing) Lent.
Rev. Stephen Reed is pastor at St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall and chaplain for Police and Fire. Faith Insight is sponsored by TVCC.
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on February 26, 2023
The power of public prayer
It’s OK to pray in public again.
What happened to restore prayer in the public square? Was it an amazing sermon, or did a notorious sinner repent at a big tent revival?
No. It wasn’t a preacher, a pariah, or a place.
It was Monday Night Football.
All it took was an outstanding safety, making an excellent open field tackle and then, shockingly, dropping dead seconds later.
Medical staff took the field as teammates and opponents took a knee in prayer. Tears flowed as CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) began and an AED (Automatic External defibrillator) was used. Seconds turned into minutes as players parted to clear a path for an ambulance. Teammates, opponents, and fans of both teams, in person (at the stadium) and watching on TV, prayed. The rivalry of two powerful teams became secondary as everyone prayed for 24-year-old Damar. The ambulance rushed off into the night leaving a void behind.
The Monday Night Football game was temporarily suspended. ESPN anticipated the players would begin warming up and play would resume. Everyone was in shock and prayers continued on the field, in the stands, in sports bars, and in homes. How else could one respond?
The Buffalo Bills requested prayers for Damar Hamlin and his family. The Cincinnati Bengals requested prayers for their young opponent. The NFL tweeted for “Prayers for Damar.”
A few tense days later doctors reported that Damar Hamlin had awoken asking, “Who won the game?” A doctor responded by saying, “You won the game of life.” Damar Hamlin took to social media to give thanks for the outpouring of support and prayers from across our great nation. Damar was discharged from the hospital and returned home. Thanks be to God! Team after team began games in prayer for Damar.
In my prior article, I reminded you of the value and fragile nature of life. I encouraged you to schedule a time for you and your friends, co-workers, church members, etc., to get trained in CPR & AEDs by calling the American Red Cross at (907) 456-5937 for training. Finally, I suggested that you pray for Damar Hamlin, his family, and teammates and for all who have lost a loved one way too soon.
A good outcome (Damar’s apparent recovery) does not change those reminders. Life remains valuable and fragile, training and equipment are needed. Does your church or job have an AED, tourniquet and trained members? Are you prepared? To be clear, I do not believe that prayer alone saved Damar Hamlin. Instead, I believe that it was a combination of trained and equipped emergency medical personnel and prayers. That is not always the case. I personally have witnessed trained and equipped medical professionals trying valiantly and unsuccessfully to save a life as prayers are said. Why some outcomes are positive and joyous and others are tragic and sorrowful, I do not know. Those are questions for God.
Stephen Reed is pastor at St. Paul Christian Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall and chaplain for Police and Fire. Insight is sponsored by TVCC.
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner on February 19, 2023
Married 27 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting