Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23 NIV)
Lent is the religious season beginning on Ash Wednesday (February 18th this year), lasting 40 days, excluding Sundays, and ending on Easter Sunday. The word Lent originates from the Old English lencten, meaning springtime. In early days, it was a 36-day period, but during the reign of Charlemagne, around A.D. 800, four days were added making it 40 days to symbolize Jesus’ 40 days of fasting in the wilderness.
Christians worldwide observe Lent by fasting, giving alms, abstaining from amusements, and spending time in reflection and confession. The period was intended as a time of spiritual preparation for Easter in remembrance of the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. It was a time to discover more about what it means to be a disciple, to deny self, to take up our cross and follow Jesus.
As teachers we need to be aware of the church calendar and opportunities to share these specific periods of time with our students. The Lenten journey gives us opportunity to consider the sacrifices and costs of being a follower of Christ as we deepen our faith along the way. In some churches fasting from something is encouraged; giving up something that we over-focus upon and using that time to grow deeper in relationship with Christ. I know of some who gave up certain foods or drinks that they like. Some give up television, technology or other things and spend that time reading their Bibles, praying and serving others.
There are some who recognize the need not just to give up something, but to do something more for God. Take up a cause, serve more and find ways to bring God’s kingdom to earth. As Christians, we need to take up our cross daily and follow, not just talk about it. Spend time talking to your class about ways to take up their cross and follow Jesus during this season of Lent.
Richard Foster would say, The Disciplines of the faith allow us to place ourselves before God so that He can transform us. The Lenten journey gives us more opportunity for transformation to take place and moves us from an admirer of Jesus to a follower of Jesus!
“The difference between an admirer and a follower still remains, no matter where you are. The admirer never makes any true sacrifices. He always plays it safe. Though in words, phrases, songs, he is inexhaustible about how highly he prizes Christ, he renounces nothing, gives up nothing, will not reconstruct his life, will not be what he admires, and will not let his life express what it is he supposedly admires.”
― from Provocations: Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard