I have not always been Pentecostal. In fact, I did’t choose to be Pentecostal, it sort of chose me. I was a resistant, skeptical, former Catholic who found himself at a protestant Bible College seeking God.
I received the gift of the Holy Spirit in a church off campus and it was not a smooth thing. God and I had a struggle going on. I didn’t want to go to the front to be prayed for so I said, “God, if you want me have this gift of the Holy Spirit, you can give it to me right here.” And, by God’s grace, he worked with me and blessed me with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
I was raised in the Catholic Church for 17 years. Needless to say, this experience was quite new.. Before you start thinking that I started jumping pews or running around the church, I did none of those things. I simply received and then smiled at how good God was to me.
Now, having been a Pentecostal youth pastor in some capacity for the past 30 years, old habits die hard. Lent is, and has been, one of my favorite times of the year. I used to love the colors in the church, the ashes on Ash Wednesday and a whole church effort to get to know Jesus better. I carry this tradition on in my own life though I do not attend a Catholic church.
Pentecostals can be funny about the practices of other denominations, but I am here to tell you that Lent is not a Catholic practice or a Methodist practice, it’s a Christian practice. If you’re a pentecostal and not familiar with what Lent is, here is a brief definition from umc.org
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means “spring.” The forty days represents the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, enduring the temptation of Satan and preparing to begin his ministry.
Lent is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter. It is a time of self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism. Today, Christians focus on their relationship with God, often choosing to give up something or to volunteer and give of themselves for others.
I know Pentecostals love fasts, such as the Daniel Fast, because we like to fast at the beginning of the year to get things rolling. We like the sound of ‘calling a fast” because it sounds super holy and super Jewish. Beyond these trivial reasons, Pentecostals should embrace Lent for other reasons.
First, we should embrace repentance. Although our sins are forgiven and we enjoy every blessing in heaven and under heaven, we must take time to mourn for not only our sins but the sins of our nation. Our repentance may not be for our grievous sins of commission, but rather our sins of omission.
Second, Lent allows us to identify ourselves with the life and heart of Jesus. Jesus was driven into the wilderness by the Spirit for a time of prayer and preparation. We should take advantage of these 40 days to prepare ourselves to celebrate the greatest event in history, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In addition to preparing our hearts for the cornerstone of the Christian faith, we should also prepare ourselves for the mission God has for us, to bring the message of “He is risen” into every corner of our communities and our world.
Lastly, Lent is not about not receiving or asking anything of God, but about acknowledging what has already done and for the grace to receive it. Lent allows us come to God not with open hands, but open hearts. Lent allows us to humbly come to Jesus and say thank, “you for loving me, thank you for dying for me, thank you for taking on my sins, my struggles, and my shame.”
Let me close with some wise words from St. Teresa of Calcutta,
“As Lent is the time for greater love, listen to Jesus’ thirst…’Repent and believe’ Jesus tells us. What are we to repent? Our indifference, our hardness of heart. What are we to believe? Jesus thirsts even now, in your heart and in the poor — He knows your weakness. He wants only your love, wants only the chance to love you.” — Blessed Teresa of Calcutta
Lent allows God to love us more fully so our hearts will be open to loving others more graciously.
If you are Pentecostal, consider looking at Lent in a different light and lean into the sacrifice and surrender that Lent affords us.
This Lenten season, Christ our Savior awaits with outstretched arms to hold us, love us, and secure us. Let us come humbly and enjoy His presence.