The contrast of the season of Lent is brought into sharp relief when Ash Wednesday [the first day of Lent] fell on 13 February, two days just before the Chinese Lunar New Year this year.
This is because Lent is a spiritually rich liturgical tradition whereby the key practices of prayer, fasting and acts of charity [alms giving] undergird the observance of this season. During this season of Lent, Christians renew their focus on God as their first love [Rev 2:4] and experience Him in a deeper way through self-denial and by intentionally practising being “saved for good works”.
Lent is a preparatory season for Easter: to recognise and acknowledge in a fresh way our need for repentance and our depravity apart from God [Col 2:13-14]; to draw closer to God – as we prepare our hearts to celebrate Easter with a renewed sense of joy and amazement! The observance of Lent is an essential for it reminds us that our Lord’s victory and glory of Easter lies on the foundation of the Cross at Golgotha.
All too often, it is too easy for believers to get caught up in the anticipation of the joy and celebration of Easter; without prior experiential cognizance and truly listening to “dying to self”– of Christ’s journey to his death in Jerusalem [see Phil 2:6-8]. Just as there will be no glory of the resurrection of Easter without the sacrifice on the Cross, so observing the preparation of Lent is essential to the joy of Easter.
The Spirit of Entitlement and the Attitude of Gratitude
As we journey through the forty days of Lent [ending on 29 March, without counting the Sundays] one of the attitudes that we need to put to death is the spirit of entitlement. Just like at the onset of Spring, the farmer removes the unwanted roots left behind from Winter, and begins to sow good seeds in anticipation of harvest; so in Lent we too remove the weed that chokes – the spirit of entitlement, and sow the good seed of gratitude.
One of the principal reasons we fail to hear the words “thank you” in our culture is because we expect things “to come to us”, to be done for us; in fact, we feel we are owed more. The spirit of entitlement makes the prodigal son demand of the father – “Give me”, and the elder son claiming – “You never give me” [Luke 15:12, 29]; it is the fertile soil from which ingratitude, discontentment, dissatisfaction and disaffection grow readily and plentifully!
The antidote to the spirit of entitlement is gratitude – an attitude that recognises and acknowledges a benefit, its worth and its source; it “is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others” [Cicero]. We now live in a very advanced era of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, enthralled with the fusion of digital revolution with other technologies. We live in a culture driven increasingly by artificial intelligence that gives us drones, self-driving cars, virtual assistants, etc – blurring the lines between the physical, digital and biological spheres [Klaus Schwab]. In such a world that increases and feeds our expectations and demands – without gratitude, we are prone to losing our sense of wonder for our Creator and His created order.
Gratitude elevates worth; without it we mislay and lose our sense of value. When we appreciate the waitress who serves long hours and difficult customers behind the fast food counter, we elevate her value. When teenagers remain defiant and disagreeable toward their parents, without expressing thanks – they devalue their parents’ role in their lives. A spirit of entitlement and ingratitude will lead to the hardening of the heart and loss of sensitivity towards others. If this malaise continues long enough – we become grumpy old people that no one enjoys!
A Gratitude Project – The Methodist Thanksgiving Memorial Chapel
A “gratitude project” that the General Conference Executive Council [on 26 January 2018] has adopted is the Methodist Thanksgiving Memorial Chapel [MTMC] in the newly constructed Wesley Methodist School Penang International [WMSPI] that will start operations in September 2018.
Building the MTMC as the “House of the Lord” will be the primary and sole responsibility of our Methodist Church in Malaysia Family. The MTMC is part of the RM 55 million newly built Wesley Methodist School Penang International [WMSPI] complex.
The *MTMC will be the principal sacred space that captures the purpose and identity of our latest private mission school. The Methodist Church in Malaysia is grateful to God for the countless Methodist missionaries and educators since our inception some 133 years ago. We are grateful for the many generations of fine teachers who had served in our schools and who shared the conviction held by Nelson Mandela [a Methodist boarding school graduate who was mentored by Methodist preachers and educators, and formed a bond with a Methodist chaplain while in prison] who said – “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.
The target sum to be raised for the MTMC alone is RM 2.5 million.
We shall raise this sum from our own Annual Conferences [the Sarawak Chinese Annual Conference has already given RM 300,000], local Methodist Churches, agencies [such as the MW, MSF etc], Methodist schools and church members.
God’s people called Methodists in Malaysia can make their personal contributions to the MTMC in gratitude for the various blessings received from God’s hand, thanking Him for our church, our life, our marriage and family, for God’s faithfulness as we celebrate anniversaries, for acknowledging significant events such as our health/healing, education, answered prayers etc. We can also give out of gratitude in memory of loved ones such as our beloved parents and others whom we treasure. Anyone, young or old, in big or small amounts, can be grateful and generous towards God, our unfailing Provider.
As we journey through Lent this year, may the Holy Spirit continue to work in us to will and to act according to God’s good purpose. May we “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling” [Phil 2:12-13] with gratitude and thanksgiving - gratefully appreciating afresh the abundant grace of our beloved Saviour’s work at Golgotha, and nailing the “spirit of entitlement” on the cross.
May we have a holy Lent that leads to a truly joyous Easter.
*Contributions and gifts for the Methodist Thanksgiving Methodist Chapel specifically indicated for “MTMC”, can be sent to:
The MTMC Project,
69 Jalan 5/31,
46000 Petaling Jaya,
Selangor Darul Ehsan;
cheques can be made out to “AEC of the Methodist Church in Malaysia” .
Mr Khor Hong Yin [COE Executive Director] – 012 3645310
Ms Jenny Qua [COE Private Education Director] – 012 6940684