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Lent as a Journey of Being and Becoming

by Rev. Joshua Bland on February 13, 2024

You are my strength, Lord, I will love you,
under the shadow of your wings protect me. Jesu, son of David, have mercy on me, that you may open the eyes of my heart. I shall call to you with the Canaanite widow, since my soul has been wounded. Even the pups eat the scraps Which fall from the lord’s table. Speak, health of the world, and my soul shall be healed. Remit the wickedness of my sin. If I touch the fringe of your garment, I shall be saved from my sin. Eloe. Sabaoth.

Poetry is meant to be read aloud. This poetic prayer, attributed to Moucan, is in the middle of a larger cycle of prayers. Together the cycle poetically envisions scenes of humility and penitence from Scripture. This prayer draws upon Jesus’ interactions with both the woman from Canaan (Matthew 15.21-28) and the woman he met as he was going to Jairus’ house (Luke 8.42-48). As we prepare for this season of Lent, I would invite you to read these Scriptures and then re-read the prayer above. Read all three aloud. Let their experiences, their words, become your own.

The United Methodist Book of Worship includes an Invitation to the Observance of Lenten Discipline, which outlines part of the history of this practice. This “season of spiritual preparation” was used as people prepared for baptism, as believers who had experienced disunity, division, and hurt were reconciled to one another “by penitence and forgiveness,” and as the church reconciled came to embody the mercy of Jesus in all aspects of its experience.(2) What might such an intentional practice of the Lenten discipline mean for us in the church today? What might it mean for the United Methodist Church? What might it mean for our local church?

I believe that an intentional Lenten practice is experienced as a journey of being and becoming. Lent is a journey of being because in it we acknowledge our present conditions. This is not limited to just those things we would like to celebrate in our lives: rather, the Lenten discipline invites us in humility to look at the whole of our lived experience. In the invitations to “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” or to “Repent, and believe the gospel,”(3) we are able to explore our mortality, our limitations, our struggles and even our failings. As Robert E. Webber writes in Liturgical Evangelism: Worship as Outreach and Nurture, “during the [Lenten] period of purification and enlightenment, the candidate [for baptism] must deal with the power of evil present in his or her life.”(4)

Thanks be to God that this is not the place where God leaves us. As much as Lent is a journey of being, it is also one of becoming. Webber goes on to write that “The theme of battle with the powers of evil dominates the period of purification and enlightenment. Consequently, this period checks the weapons and readies the warrior… during Lent the converting candidate learns how to draw on the spiritual resources that have been given to the church.”(5) As we participate in the Lenten discipline with the Spirit and with the church, the realities of our limitations are invited into the experience that God is making all things new. Prayer and fasting involve cultivating a deeper relationship with God as God is reconciling us and creation to Godself. Self-examination, self-denial, and repentance are ways that we respond to the reconciling work of the Spirit of the Living God in these holy moments. As we respond to God’s grace– prevenient, justifying, and sanctifying– we are being made new. In the humility we practice throughout the Lenten discipline, we recognize that God is making us new not for our own sake but for the sake of our neighbors: that God “through the Messiah has reconciled us to himself [sic.] and has given us the work of reconciliation, which is that God in the Messiah was reconciling mankind to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5.18-19, JNT). The Lenten discipline invites us to intentionally give our attention to the reality of an interior transformation by the power of God which is then demonstrated relationally as we experience and share the life of God with others.

While the themes of mortality and repentance during the Lenten season may seem somber, this season is not an invitation to sorrow alone. Because Lent is also a journey of becoming, it can be a season of hope and joy. John Wesley preaches that “In this alone can you find the happiness you seek- in the union of your spirit with the Father of spirits; in the knowledge and love of him (sic.) who is the fountain of happiness, sufficient for all the souls he has made.”(6) He concludes this same sermon with the following exhortation: “Expect that the power of the Highest shall suddenly overshadow you that all sin may be destroyed, and nothing may remain in your heart but holiness unto the Lord.”(7) This is the transformation that we seek as we practice the Lenten discipline! May this Lenten journey be a sanctifying experience in which we are further conformed to– further transformed into– the holiness and love of God as expressed through Jesus by the power of the Spirit. May the love of God be embodied in us through practices of humility, forgiveness, and compassion as we share life together within the church and with our neighbors.

That all may see. That all may know. That all may experience the love and life of the God who invites us all to the table.


(1)Moucan, “The Prayers of Moucan,” No. 5, in Celtic Spirituality, translated by Oliver Davies (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1999), 303.

(2)The United Methodist Book of Worship (Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House, 1992), 322.

(3)ibid., 323.

(4)Robert E. Webber, Liturgical Evangelism: Worship as Outreach and Nurture (Harrisburg, PA: Morehouse Publishing, 1986), 71.

(5)ibid., 74.

(6)John Wesley, “Spiritual Worship,” §III.8.

(7)ibid., §III.10.


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