Perhaps some of you aren't familiar with the season of Lent that we have just begun. If that is so, here is a little primer on Lent.
The season of Lent is a season of worship for both personal and corporate spiritual renewal in preparation for celebration of the central event in Christianity, the death and resurrection of Christ. It is a time for intense study of God’s word, for meditation, for prayer, and for self-examination.
It begins quietly with ashes and builds in intensity as the observance of Christ’s death and resurrection grow closer. Ultimately, the purpose of Lent is a pilgrimage to put the Gospel in motion in a convicting and empowering way.
What is it's context within the Church Year?
In the Old Testament, God used feasts and festivals to bring a rhythm and balance to Israelite worship. This was accomplished by providing structure to the recounting of God’s great works, providing seasons of confession and celebration, and looking forward to God’s promises. The Christian Church year gives us some of the same balance and rhythm in walking through the life of Christ in a way that essentially walks us through the Gospel.
So as we enter the season of Lent you might notice the worship taking on the more subdued and reflective character of the season. This will then contrast with the excitement and praise of Easter and Pentecost.
What are some practical things I can do to make Lent meaningful?
One of the best things you can do is be sensitive to the purpose of Lent through intentionally emphasizing positions, actions, moods and disciplines as you go about your normal worship, reading, devotions and prayer times.
Worship Positions: Kneeling, falling prostrate, bowed heads
Actions: Extended time in confession, reflection, prayer, fasting, lament, self examination (spiritual life, family, business, relationships, areas of service, finances, mission)
Moods: quietness, reflectiveness, simplicity, sacrifice, self-examination, in-ward focus extra time in the scriptures, practicing simplicity, prayer and fasting
Do I have to give something up?
Many of us might be familiar with “Giving something up for Lent.” In many cases this has become empty tradition and its deep meaning and context have been lost. The heart of this tradition is twofold.
1. Using the sense of sacrifice as a small way to identify with what Christ sacrificed for us in his incarnation, death and resurrection.
2 The second is for the sake of simplifying your life. By removing some of the external distractions and clutter of our lives to more clearly hear God, spend time with Him, and study the scriptures. In contrast to this being just an exercise in self sacrifice, this is done with the purpose of preparing us for the call to action and mission of Pentecost.
(thanks to my friend Mike Smith who has prepared our church for the season of Lent.)