Failing Lent

The conversations among many Christians throughout the world this time of the year revolves around what one gives up during Lent.  The season of Lent usually calls to mind a time of discipline, of sacrifice, of giving up.  Most years I have given something that I love up for Lent.  Usually it is chocolate, eating out, or soda.  Other times I have tried taking something on like exercise, clean eating, or blogging.  Actually, my interest in blogging started during as a Lenten discipline.

This year I wanted to get back to the “heart” of Lenten practices, praying, fasting and alms-giving.

I wanted to start a practice of prayer — I was planning on taking some time each day to intentionally pray for the church, my friends and family, and others throughout the world.

I was going to fast.  Besides a few youth events over the years I have never really intentionally fasted before.  I thought it would be a good thing to try and something that would help me be thankful for all that I do have in the world.

I wanted to intentionally give.  I was planning on giving my time, my talents and my treasure in ways I have never done before.  I was going to cut back in parts of my life in order to give.  Our family has a giving heart and I wanted to expand upon that.

This was my plan.

In terms of my plan Lent never really got off the ground.  The week of Ash Wednesday I had a number of unexpected things happen in my life both in and out of the church.  The next thing I knew I was a week into Lent and I had not even prepared myself.  I wanted blog more, I wanted to pray more, I wanted to eat less and give more.

I. Failed.

Then I thought that it was okay, no one is perfect I will start next week……that was around four weeks ago and no prayer, no fasting, no giving.

Granted other things have come up — I have taken on a new lifestyle practice in terms of eating.  I have new ideas to enhance my prayer life and there are possibilities to give more and I am excited about this!!!  However, this is not what I was envisioning for Lent.

So I ask myself, what happened?  Did I fail Lent? Did I fail God?

I really felt bad about it, and then I realized that I did not fail.  In fact, I am thriving more than I was at the beginning of Lent. At the beginning of Lent I had hopes and dreams for myself, I had expectations of what could happen but now I am living a life that is happening NOW.  So many times in my life I try and live my plan when in fact I should be living Gods plan.  I don’t know what is best for me – I can only guess and when I do I get it right 50% of the time.  God gets it right all the time.

So if you have been “failing Lent” like I have — don’t worry about it because God may have a plan that you don’t know about and it could help you in ways that you can’t even imagine right now.

C is for catholic church

One of the questions I am asked all the time is about the phrase “catholic Church.”  This phrase is found in the Creeds of the church.  Many churches throughout the world including the Lutheran Church ascribes to three different creeds, The Apostle’s Creed the Nicene Creed and the Athanasian Creed.  The Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed are used quite often in the church, while the Athanasian Creed may be used on Trinity Sunday (the Sunday after Pentecost Sunday) but rarely any other time.

The Apostles Creed is used the most throughout the year. It was first introduced into the church around the eighth century.  This creed does not come from the apostles of Jesus, but it does keep in line with the teachings from the New Testament.  It describes a faith in which we are all baptized into and therefore is used as the statement of faith by the gathered assembly at a baptism.  It is the creed that is used when there is not a festival of the church happening.

The Nicene Creed was first adopted by church leaders in 325 at the First Council of Nicaea.  This creed that is used by most Christian Churches around the world. Historically it has been used when we celebrate festival Sundays.

Finally there is the Athanasian Creed.  This creed takes its name from Athanasius, the great theologian of the fourth century who defended Trinitarian teaching. This creed is not commonly used in churches.  It is a historical creed that many study and we as a church ascribe to it but we do not use it very much, if at all in worship.

Within the text of the Apostle’s Creed and Nicene creed is a line that talks about the the ‘catholic Church’ which simply refers to the universal Church of believers. The way I like to explain it is that when we pray in the creeds about the “catholic Church” we are praying about the “little c” Church not the “big C” Church.

The word Creed is from the Latin [credo] meaning “I believe”, so the creeds are a statement of Christian beliefs. Some people have the mistaken idea that the word ‘catholic’ belongs to the Roman Catholic Church.

For a long time in our history there was one church that was recognized as the church which everyone belonged.  It was the universal church the Catholic Church.  However, over time there were a number of people who started to protest the way the Catholic Church carried out the practices of the church which began the Reformation.

Today the landscape of religion and the church looks very different.  There are many denominations and faith practices and so we can no longer say that the Catholic Church is the only church in town.  Instead we can say that there is only the universal church, not a Roman Catholic Church and a Protestant Church, but one Holy Universal Church.

The true church of God is the universal church, where we all belong and are members no matter what label we try and put upon it.  There are many, many churches living out what they feel God is calling them to in this world.  We don’t always get along, and there are arguments between the churches and there are arguments between the churches and those who don’t believe in God.

There are also many people (like myself) who spend their lives trying to proclaim the Gospel of love, grace and forgiveness from God to the world.  This message is from the church universal.

We could say:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, The Holy Universal Church, The communion of saints…..

Which would help those who are not as familiar with the language of the church not to be as confused.  However, if we are using a creed prayer in church we are praying with brothers and sisters in Christ throughout the world. It is one of the few things in worship which we can agree on and use together across church boarders.