Lent is the period of the year in which we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ at Good Friday and Easter. Just as we carefully prepare for big events in our personal lives, such as a wedding or graduation, Lent invites us to make our hearts ready for remembering Jesus’ suffering and celebrating Jesus’ resurrection.
The practice of a 40-day preparation period began in the Christian church during the third and fourth centuries. The number 40 carries biblical significance based on the 40 years Israel spent in the desert and Jesus’ 40-day fast in the wilderness. The 40 days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday and continue to Easter, not counting Sundays (Sundays are considered feast-days, like mini-Easters).
Lent is a season in which we especially focus on examining our hearts, confessing our sins, and reflecting on the significance of Christ’s death. Think of it as sort of “Spring cleaning” of the soul – you need to sweep and clean all year round, but you might have a concentrated deep cleaning at special times of the year.
Some practices you might develop in Lent include:
- Fasting or Self-Denial. You probably have heard someone talk about “giving up something for lent.” The point isn’t just to stop eating chocolate; it’s to arrange our lives more faithfully around Jesus. There are many exhortations in Scripture to “put off” and “put on” certain things that help you live more faithfully for Jesus (eg Eph. 4:22-24). Ask yourself, “What will I stop doing this season because I am a beloved child of God? And What will I start doing because God loves me in Christ?” Giving up something is not a way to “earn” anything from God, but rather a way to learn to curb your appetites and focus more completely on Jesus as your true source of life and stability.
- Prayer and Self-Reflection. Read over the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ arrest, trial and crucifixion. Reflect on his suffering and the infinite love He has for you. Reflect on your own sin and what it cost Jesus to forgive it. Create a new or different habit of prayer. Ask a trusted friend to share honestly with you about your sin and character flaws. Take a personal retreat. Use a resource below to do some reflection on Jesus and his grace. Lent is a great time to do some spiritual “house cleaning.”
- Practice Community. Lent isn’t just about personal renewal, it’s also about community renewal. Jesus makes a new community through his death and resurrection. Pray for our community and spend time together talking and praying about what new thing God is calling us to do and be.
Resources for Lent:
- Lent Book: I’d like to take up the practice of encouraging everyone to read a book together during Lent. This year I am recommending NT Wright’s book Lent for Everyone: Luke. It is a great way for us to daily go deeper together into the book of Luke. [We have a few copies of this book for sale for $10 at the church office. If you want to purchase a copy, come by 500 Forest Ave.]
- lentreading.wordpress.com: A great online Lent daily devotional blog with daily Scripture, art, music and prayer. This is curated by Kevin Greene, a pastor at West End Pres.
- Weekly Sunday morning prayer: Consider joining us for Sunday Morning prayer and communion at 8:00 am in Room 101.