It has been more and more clear that no congregation is more renewed than its people. That’s because people are the church! The more spiritually attuned and grounded the members of any congregation are, the more likely they are to not just pursue what they want but rather discern what it is that God wants to happen. That transformation, the move from what we want to what God wants, is the real heart of renewal.

Lent is now unfolding. With it comes the call and the challenge to take our walk with Christ more seriously. The beginning of Lent is the start of a journey with Jesus to the cross. It is a deliberate journey. By this time, no one should be surprised that following Jesus comes with a cost. The cross is part of the deal. That means that serious Christianity does not only deal with the easy and happy parts of life. It is messy, challenging and sometimes calls for tough decisions and sacrifices to be made.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran pastor who died in prison for his opposition to Adolph Hitler during WW II, talked about the difference between “cheap grace” and “costly grace.” Cheap grace, he said, was not the stuff of the gospel. The gospel was about a God who endured anything and everything for the sake of loving the world. Followers of Jesus are called, as best as they are able, to do the same.

Our hope this year, is that people who are part of the Lenten journey at Zion will discover something about God and themselves this Lent that deepens faith, strengthens discipleship and empowers real and lasting transformation. It will help us make time and space to reflect and listen more. There will be less “teaching” in our midweek services and more “experiencing and reflecting.” We will gather around the cross to listen to scripture, sing songs that encourage us to be open and receptive, and participate in a more contemplative and reflective way of praying.

We often hear people say, “I keep getting encouraged to pray more. But I don’t think anyone ever taught me how to do it.” The disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We are not alone in our desire to better speak to and listen to God. This Lent, make time and space in your life for prayer. And if you would be blessed by assistance or just flat out need some help, midweek services this week will give all of us a chance to go much deeper than we have before.

May Lent deepen your relationship with God in ways that last way longer than the 40 days.

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