A necessary prelude

By Bishop Gary E. Mueller It’s here. Beginning with Ash Wednesday on March 5, we enter that chunk of time before Easter that those of us in the church world call Lent. These 40 days (which don’t include Sundays, because they are always “little Easters”) are a time of repentance, confession, honest self-assessment, reflection and lament that prepare you to fully experience the wonder, mystery and joy of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The point is not just to check religious rituals off a list, as if that will automatically get you where you need to be. The intention is for you to get absolutely honest with God like you never have before. Of course, that’s seldom fun. And, in point of fact, it can often seem quite painful. That’s because it involves you stripping away barriers, layer after layer of pretense, illusions and all those distractions that seem so important but ultimately distract you from what matters most in life. So why does Lent matter? More importantly, why is embracing a spiritual discipline for so many days important? And, perhaps most importantly, why do you need to go through such a laborious process in order to experience what Easter’s all about? It’s simple. This kind of honesty with God is a necessary prelude to the revival that Christ’s resurrection brings in your relationship with God, identity as Jesus’ disciple and faith that is quite simply the most important thing in life. But remember, you don’t bring this revival. You prepare yourself for the gift of revival the Holy Spirit brings into your life. In recent months, I’ve been thinking, praying, writing and talking a great deal about my belief that true spiritual revival is the most important need in our church. In particular, I’ve been reflecting a lot about the importance of United Methodist Christians in Arkansas embracing this need more seriously than ever before. And maybe—just maybe—we can, if we join together to start embracing a new kind of journey through Lent to Easter. I’m ready. How about you? Grace and peace, Gary E. Mueller