Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As a child, growing up in several different Evangelical churches, I never really understood what "Lent" was all about and why some churches observed it and others didn't. As a matter of fact, I actually thought it was "lint" and wondered how stuff you pulled out of the dryer could possibly warrant a church service. I clearly had no idea what the season of Lent was, so words like "Ash Wednesday," "Maundy Thursday," "Good Friday" were just that--words.
As I was thinking about that this morning, I wondered how many of us are in a similar position. Most of us church-folk know that Lent is important…we’re just not exactly sure why. So how about a refresher course?
So, for starters, to understand the season of Lent, you need to know something about the Early Church and the practice of Baptism. In the first few centuries of the Christian church, it was mostly family units that were baptized (unlike our present-day practice of baptizing individuals). So, prior to baptism, the church would instruct these families and adult individuals about the chief articles of the faith: Who is God? What about Jesus? Who is the Holy Spirit? What is the role of the Church? The exploration of questions like these is known as “Catechesis.”
This process took place over a 40-day period, leading up to the day of Baptism which took place at the Great Easter Vigil service. During this 40-day period, it was typical for those being taught the faith to fast from various things to show their devotion to the church and to allow for deeper meditation on Jesus and His suffering and death on the cross. Over the centuries, these 40-days leading up to Easter became a time when the whole church, not just the new converts, would take time to fast, pray, and meditate on Jesus’ sacrificial death on our behalf.
Now if you’re curious about why there are more than 40-days between Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) and Easter, it’s because Sundays aren’t counted in Lent, since EVERY Sunday is a celebration of Christ’s victory on Easter morning. (I know. Why can’t we say “Alleluia” then?)
This Lenten season, in the tradition of the ancient church, I encourage all of you to spend some time meditating on the suffering and death of Jesus more deeply. I like to use Psalm 22, sometimes known as “The Psalm of the Cross,” as my daily devotional. And as you do, you’ll be reminded of Jesus’ great love for you. For further encouragement, I would invite you to join us in our mid-week Lent services on Wednesday evenings.
God's richest blessings! See you in church!
Pastor M. <t><