WHAT IS LENT?
Today is Ash Wednesday the beginning of the forty-day period known as Lent. You may or may not know much about Lent but it is an important time of the year for Christians and we should celebrate it in some way. Lent begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday. The purpose of it is as a time of preparation for the observance and celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection. Lent is not in the Bible in fact it comes from the Latin word for spring. But the concept of self-evaluation is certainly in the Bible. And it is a good time to examine ourselves and see whether we are truly dying to self.
The Catholic Church asks its members to give something up for Lent as a sign of self-denial. As a boy my catholic friends would give up gum or soda for Lent. I always thought it was more silly than serious but these were kids after all. The idea is that Jesus gave up everything to leave heaven and come to earth. On earth he then gave up his life so we could be saved from our sins. Thus, we should make some tangible sacrifice as a sign of our commitment to Christ.
Throughout church history the Church has celebrated Lent. Among those in the “high” church such as Catholics, Episcopalians and Presbyterians there is the Lextionary. The Lextionary contains the Old Testament, Gospel and Epistle reading for each Sunday or sometimes just and Old Testament and either Gospel or Epistle reading. It runs on a three-year cycle in which virtually the entire Bible is read. We who belong to the “free” church do not use the Lextionary because of our belief that the worship service should not be so liturgical. But the Lextionary readings at Lent do focus on Jesus’ suffering and the salvation he has provided for us. The question for us is do we appreciate all Jesus has done and value his marvelous grace toward us?
Jesus said in Matthew 16:34, “If any of you want to be my followers, you must deny yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.” This Lenten season is an opportunity to reflect on our Christian commitment. It is a time of introspection where we evaluate our followership of Christ. Are we obeying the teachings of the Bible even if it is hard to do? Are we sacrificing our time, talent and treasure in a consistent way? Are we fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ? This is a time for accelerated spiritual growth. It is a time to repent of sin and commit to following Jesus wholeheartedly. We will then be fully ready to celebrate Good Friday and Easter in a new way.
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