The Clerk’s Corner by Rob Riehl, ruling elder
Have you ever heard of a Lenten coin? It is a two-sided ordinary coin with a “heads” side with the flip side being “tails” –nothing unusual about that!
However, for the purpose of encouraging you to do something of a self-disciplinary nature for the season of Lent, this image of a coin will hopefully challenge and inspire you to act ! The head-side of this coin encourages you to do something positive, something a bit challenging, and something that would improve your quality of life; the tail-side of this coin encourages you to dispose of something negative, something difficult to release, and something self-sacrificial ! You may choose to do either the “heads” side ( positive ) or the “tails” side ( negative ) of this coin. If you are indecisive, you could simply “flip the coin” relying on fate to determine your choice. A more interesting and beneficial choice would be to act upon both sides of this coin for the season of Lent ( about 40 days ). This is the daunting challenge: could you be determined enough to sustain whatever choice you make for forty days?
Before Jesus Christ began His mission of Redemption, He spent forty days and nights in the desert wilderness preparing for His mission and ministry. He was alone, without food, water, and shelter; He emptied Himself to be filled with the Father –praying and fasting. Jesus allowed Himself to be tempted by Satan, who offered “the best” of his world — if Jesus would only give up His mission and worship him. Jesus is calling us, His followers, to do likewise: to spend forty days of prayer and fasting, of self-denial and sacrifice, allowing the Holy Spirit to fill us with strength and courage to denounce Satan, reject sin, overcome temptation, and share in the glory of rising with Christ !
As the season of Lent calls us to prepare for the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus at Easter, what are some ways we can participate in this experiential journey ?
For one, we could improve our relationships with others ( be they spouse, relative, friend, neighbor, co-worker ). Instead of speaking negatively of their shortcomings, we could replace that destructive habit by speaking well of their attributes; our goal is to “build them up” instead of “tearing them down” ! Think about the reward for them ( and for you ) over the forty days of Lent; these relationships would improve significantly with a “win-win” payoff for everyone ! For another, do random acts of kindness everyday, wherever you go, and to anyone who provides you with the opportunity to act. Imagine your new habit of such “connecting” with others taking hold over the forty days of Lent. Become more generous: carry “extra change” to give away to anyone in need. Even a dollar a day ( over forty days ) would create in you a more generous attitude ! How about reducing an addictive habit, such as committing to “no social media on Sundays!” ( Just wondering… Is there anyone who could do this over forty days? ). Consider sacrificing some television or computer time each day to engage with real people in meaningful conversations –thus building relationships! Displace routine “trivial pursuits” with Bible study, meditation and journaling, reading spiritual books and commentaries. Be the voice, hands, and feet of Christ: become a liturgist, a communion server, an usher; join a church small group, fellowship or ministry; call or visit our church homebound members; give of your time and talent to enlarge the development and growth of our church congregation. Over forty days, you would become more invested in our church life.
To encourage any readers who find the “40-day challenge” too stressful, consider this option: Do weekly stretches ( with weekends “off” ), such as designating a “no dessert week”, “no Facebook week”, or pre-determine “lunch-free days” ( pray and fast instead! ), “coffee or cocktail-free days” ( drink juice or water instead! ). Think about selecting one good habit to add ( and one bad habit to eliminate ) for a week, such as adopting an attitude of gracious gratitude and eliminate the self-serving attitude of entitlement –serve others before serving self, and the like. Be sure to keep in contact with God to help you overcome the difficult times; if you fall, forgive yourself and continue with God’s grace to achieve your goal.
Post “reminder” notes in places you frequently look at everyday: on your bathroom mirror, computer screen, vehicle steering wheel / dashboard, and other such places to remain focused on your commitment to the Lord Jesus and yourself. Remember that you and Jesus are yoked together in this “work-in-progress” !
Whatever challenge you decide to pursue, remember WHY and for WHOM you are undertaking this transformation during the season of Lent. You are called to give honor and glory to God, to become more Christ-like in your manner, and more Spirit-led in your attitude. Along the way of this spiritual experiential journey, you may stumble and fall, suffer a bit, be tempted to “give up”, understand self-sacrifice, lean on God for strength to endure to the end. Looking back after Easter Sunday, the blessing is the reward of a “new you” –a new creation– to have followed the way of Christ for forty days! As for the Lenten Coin, I never heard of it either; it is simply a metaphor that arose from my imagination !
Mr. Rob Riehl, ruling elder