Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The What + Why About Lent

This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday. Followed by Fat Tuesday (Madi Gras), Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the annual Lenten Season. Lent is a time when many Christians prepare for Easter by observing a special period of fasting, repentance, personal study, moderation, and spiritual discipline. Of course, these activities can be observed any time of the year, but the purpose of doing them during the 40 days of Lent is to set aside additional and particular time for reflection on Jesus Christ - his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection. 

The 40 days of Lent are to be marked by repentance. Ash is sometimes rubbed on the foreheads of Christians during Ash Wednesday services as a sign of repentance (e.g., 2 Samuel 13:19; Esther 4:1; Job 2:8; Daniel 9:3; and Matthew 11:21).
Now, if you can do the math, you may know there are actually 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. This is due to Sunday's being excluded. Repentance is to mark the 40 days and celebration is to mark the Sundays leading up to Easter or Resurrection Sunday.
As with all liturgical season, Lent can be legalistically observed. There are no biblical warrants to observe it and it should be observed out of choice, not any sort of obligation.  Elliot Grudem articulates it well, "...any special attention to the Lenten Season that honors God must include heart-level repentance and real faith, not external obedience to church tradition. So the Lenten Season and its encouragement to take an extended time to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ provides us with an opportunity to honor God...There can be a real value in marking this season, but only if done with a heart that seeks to honor God."
Lent is a time when Christians can annually connect with their heritage and their fellow Christians around the world. It's a unique opportunity to live out the "oneness" expressed in Christ's prayer in John 17 as we, together, journey through Lent, asking ask-are there things here that we need to die to? Are there habits, thoughts, and patterns of living in our lives that aren't consistent with the life God intended us to live? 

At the same time, Lent should be a time for Christians everywhere to accept the life and grace that God extends to us-celebrating the cross and resurrection as God's definitive act of redemption in the world.
Grace Church and Lent 2016
Our church, Grace Church, is providing Lenten activities each day - GIVE, MEDITATE, or PRAY during the week and CELEBRATE for each of the Sundays lending up to Resurrection Sunday - on our church Facebook and Twitter Pages.

Plus, feel free to listen to a short podcast message by me about Lent and our Lenten Activities.
May this Lenten Season will be time growth, personal reflection, repentance, and resurrection for each one of us.

Grace + Peace,
P. Heath

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