Feb 12, 2013

A Mardi Gras Invitation

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.

No, I'm not inviting you to a Mardi Gras party. Sorry about that.

I could invite you to such a party, however, without feeling as if I'm tempting you to sin. I know we tend to associate Mardi Gras with outrageous celebrations in places like New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro. But, in fact, the roots of Mardi Gras grow in Christian soil. For centuries, Christians who regard Lent as a season of fasting from rich foods have turned the Tuesday before Lent begins into a feast day in which they use up all the fat in their kitchens (butter, cheese, etc.). "Mardi Gras" is simply the French phrase for "Fat Tuesday," named after this Christian practice. Among many Christians, Mardi Gras is celebrated by a giant feast of pancakes. So, if I were throwing a pancake party, I'd feel great about inviting you to it.

But my Mardi Gras invitation has nothing to do with pancakes. Rather, I'm taking time on the Tuesday before Lent (which begins tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday) to invite you to join me in a Lenten devotional journey. Beginning tomorrow and continuing each day until the Saturday before Easter, the Daily Reflections will follow a special Lenten theme: Knowing Jesus Better. We'll be focusing on parables and sayings of Jesus, as well as stories of his life and other biblical passages that reveal aspects of his personality and mission.

The main point of this Lenten series is to help you know Jesus more deeply and truly. It has been inspired by the example of the Apostle Paul, who once wrote to the Philippians: "I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead" (3:10-11). Paul, who already had a deep relationship with Jesus Christ, sought to know him better. I pray that our Lenten series will help you to know Jesus better as well.

I have contributed to this series, though most of the devotions have been written by my colleagues at Foundations for Laity Renewal. You'll be reading pieces written by my fellow staff members, including many of the outstanding writers who contribute to The High Calling website. Not only will you benefit from diverse voices and perspective in this series, but also you'll be blessed by some excellent writing.

You can join in this Lenten series simply by using the Daily Devotions as they appear in your email inbox each morning. Or, if you prefer, you can download a free PDF of the whole series at this link. However you access the devotions in this Lenten series, I want to invite you to join me and the more than 20,000 subscribes to the Daily Reflections as we seek together to know Jesus better.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Do you desire to know Jesus better? If so, why? If not, why not? Are you willing to devote the next six weeks of Lent to a shared search for a deeper and truer relationship with Jesus?

PRAYER: Thanks be to Thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits Thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults which Thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, follow Thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.

Prayer by St. Richard of Chichester, 13th century.

P.S. from Mark: Tomorrow marks the beginning of Lent, a season in the Christian year to draw near to God in a special way as we prepare our hearts for a deeper experience of the wonder of Good Friday and the joy of Easter. If you would like to learn more about Ash Wednesday and Lent, you might find helpful a couple of pieces I have written. They are available on my website: Ash Wednesday: What Is Ash Wednesday? How Do We Observe It? Why Should We? and How Lent Can Make a Difference in Your Relationship with God.

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