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How To Celebrate Lent

By Pastor Tom Anderson

Lent comes from the Latin word for “lengthening days” and refers to increasing hours of daylight as we approach the spring equinox. Lent is the name the ancient church gave to a season of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday.

The 40 days were chosen to honor Jesus’ 40 day fast in preparation for his public ministry as recorded in the gospels (see Luke 4). The early church used this season for some special purposes:

  • Candidates for Baptism took classes in preparation for the celebration of their baptism on Easter Sunday–another early church worship tradition.

  • Inactive members–or those who had committed grievous sins–were invited to confess, repent, return to worship and renew their faith.

  • Everyone else was invited to renew their practice of the spiritual disciplines commended by Jesus in Matthew 6: Giving, Praying and Fasting.

Today’s churches honor this tradition in many and various ways. Some less formal churches don’t observe the tradition at all, preferring to use other means to accomplish the same purposes. I believe observing Lent is very useful to rekindle flagging faith through the re-emphasis of basic spiritual disciplines to get closer to God.

Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. This year it falls on March 2. Ashes are smeared in the shape of the cross on the forehead or the back of the hand. The ashes are a very public statement symbolizing every Christians’ intent to die to self and be reborn as a new creation in Christ. “Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires…and put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians 4:24)

Prayer, fasting and giving are the disciplines commended by Jesus to his followers to employ in this purpose of “putting off the old self and putting on the new self”. He teaches on these practices in Matthew 6.

How is your discipline of giving? Are you regularly giving time, effort and financial support to your church? Our mission is to preach the gospel and instruct children, youth and adults in the practice of Christian faith. Have you considered tithing your income for 40 days? Would you consider a special gift for Rebuilding Together–our second-mile offering on March 27? Have you volunteered at church recently? Talk to Sue, Ben or me for some ideas about serving.

How is your prayer life? The truth is many active church members pray very infrequently. Why not pick up a copy of our special daily prayer guide, “40 Days with Luke” and commit yourself to daily devotions? Following this guide you will read through the entire Gospel of Luke before Easter, be guided in the discipline of daily prayer and be prepared for the weekly sermons based on Luke.

Do you fast? Fasting is the discipline of self-denial. Typically, it involves missing a meal or abstaining from a certain kind of food as an appeal to the Holy Spirit to empower us to live for God’s purposes and not for our own selfish desires. For example, this Lent I will be giving up coffee and desserts for 40 days. This fast is a vivid and physical symbol that God’s will is to be done before my own. Some other “fasts” --you might consider picking just one for yourself to observe: profanity, alcohol, drugs, gambling, excessive screen time, gaming, social media, tobacco, Friday lunches, gossiping, staying up late, watching cable news, carbohydrates, soda pop, or other forms of rich foods.

Lent reaches its great crescendo with the days of Holy Week: Palm Sunday-commemorating Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19); Holy Thursday–commemorating the last supper (Luke 22); Good Friday–marking the death of Jesus (Luke 23) and Easter Sunday–the resurrection (Luke 24). We will hold special worship services together each of these days. I’m looking forward to the holy discipline of Lent, getting closer to God and preparing my spirit for the celebration of the greatest event in world history: Jesus’ rising from the dead!


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