So the disciples did as Jesus had directed them and prepared the Passover~ Matthew 26:19 NIV
I am a Protestant Evangelical.
It’s not that I feel Protestants or Evangelicals or Protestant Evangelicals have the market cornered on truth. I don’t. Nor do I believe Christians who practice their faith differently than I do are immoral, evil or misled in some way.
I do believe Jesus is the only way to God (John 14:6). However, I also believe that there are many methods available to learn about and worship God. As long as the worship and learning is done in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) I am generally pretty cool with it.
That being said. I, like most human beings gravitate towards the familiar and comfortable and the Evangelical world is familiar and comfortable to me.
I became a Christian in a Protestant Evangelical Church and over the years I have come to appreciate (for the most part, more on this later) the no-frills approach to Christianity that Protestant Evangelicalism offers.
Back in the day I was the executive director of a Pregnancy Care Center in a small town. One of my responsibilities was to visit the Churches that supported our ministry at least once a year and update them on our progress. As a result I have attended just about every classification of Christian church imaginable. From Catholic to Baptist to Oneness Pentecostal, if a denomination worships Jesus and supports pro-life causes I have probably had the pleasure of worshipping there at least once.
It was during those years that discovered how much I love the minimalism of the Protestant experience. I like the fact that I don’t have to approach some Saint and have them forward my prayers to Jesus or confess my sins to a third party to get them forgiven.
I love that Evangelicals love the Bible and hold it in such high regard. I also love that Protestant Evangelicals believe that all Christians are capable of reading, understanding and interpreting the Bible for themselves. I am a straightforward girl and I appreciate a straightforward approach to the faith.
There is one day out of the year when I truly envy the formality, pageantry and ritual of the Catholic and Orthodox Christian traditions.
I’m just going to go ahead and say it.
Protestants are remarkably terrible at making the Easter season as spiritually meaningful as it deserves to be. Sadly, Evangelical Protestants take the terribleness to a whole new level.
In most Protestant Evangelical churches the actual church service is memorable and distinctive. There’s a special sermon, thematic music and some churches even put on a passion play. That said, I have found that generally the season of Easter comes and goes with all the heralding of a drive-by shooting. The lack of spiritual preparation and lead-up to Easter inevitably causes Jesus to take a back seat to the bunnies, candy, egg hunts and ham.
In an effort to end the madness, a few years ago I decided to rip a page from my Catholic and Orthodox friends’ playbook and partake in the season of Lent.
Contrary to popular opinion, Lent is not nor has it ever been a strictly Catholic or Eastern Orthodox custom or practice. Lent is one of the oldest traditions of the Christian faith; and I for one believe the practice merits a strong comeback in Evangelical circles.
The original intent of Lent was to set aside a time of spiritual preparation, self-examination and repentance prior to Easter Sunday. Traditionally, Lent involves forty days of fasting (a meal or a particular food), reading through at least one of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John) and an increased level of prayer.
Christians have been practicing Lent since as early as the beginning of the second century. Sadly, sometime around the 15th Century Lent became associated with Catholicism and the act of fasting. Protestants who wanted to dissociate themselves from the excesses of Catholicism stopped practicing it, and many Catholics lost touch with the whole point of Lent and as a result some of the significance of Easter season has been lost for all of us.
The official start of Lent is today (Ash Wednesday). Today is the day to begin preparing your heart for the most significant day on the Christian calendar. Choose something to fast from, dust off your Bible, do some in-depth spiritual self-examination and pick a few topics to pray about from now until the Wednesday before Easter.
Then trust God to do something really big and really meaningful in your life this Easter season.