Friday, February 24, 2006

"Taking Up" for Lent

The following is my "pastor's page" from the March 2006 church newsletter. (Note also the new "PreachrPoll" in the left sidebar which goes along with this article).

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Lent begins this year on March 1st, Ash Wednesday. As you read this month’s newsletter, it’s probably already begun. But I have some questions…

What is Lent? Where did it come from? What does it mean? Why do we do it?

I found the following short essay helpful in briefly answering some of these questions. It’s from the website of DOC pastor Kenneth W. Collins (www.KenCollins.com):

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

All churches that have a continuous history extending before AD 1500 observe Lent. The ancient church that wrote, collected, canonized, and propagated the New Testament also observed Lent, believing it to be a commandment from the apostles…

Because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, we skip over Sundays when we alculate the length of Lent. Therefore, in the Western Church, Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter. In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.

Copyright ©1995-2006 by
the Rev. Kenneth W. Collins and his licensors. Used by permission.

And on “Giving Something Up for Lent”. A question I often hear this time of year. Do we Lutherans do it? The answer is: “If you want to”. It is a purely voluntary practice which depends on one’s own personal piety. But if you choose to do it, think about this:

Unlike some Christians, Lutherans expect to earn no merit from God in return for our Lenten sacrifice. Christ has already given us the fullness of God’s grace. Instead, what would we gain from giving something up? Perhaps a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice for us. If you find foregoing a favorite food or activity you like helps you remember and give thanks for Christ’s sacrifice, then that’s great!

Some probably also “give things up” because they know it’s a bad habit in the first place. Quitting smoking, giving up sweets, fast food, etc… all are modern favorites to “give up” for Lent. If Lent is the excuse you need to break a bad habit, I won’t criticize you too harshly. But think about this. Lent might also be a good time to “take something up” instead. Form a good habit that you’ve been meaning to do. (Sort of a second chance at a New Year’s resolution).

But since Lent is a season of the Church, especially think about a spiritual habit. Perhaps read your Bible once a day during Lent. Pray for a few minutes at lunchtime. Come to church on Wednesdays for our midweek Lenten series. “Take something up” for Lent that is God-pleasing and will be a blessing to you.

For Christ took up the cross. He bore our sins, and gave his life as our ransom. May your Lent be a time of solemn pondering and meditative reflection on the great love of our Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ our Lord.

3 comments:

Lynn of St. John's said...

Giving up meat for 40 days...that's an interesting invitation. Being a Lutheran preschool teacher has given me an opportunity to learn about our Lod's creatures, of which I am one of made from a rib of Adam. Sometimes Belivers are like blood thirsty lions wanting solid spiritual food, meat we can chew on for awhile, swallow and digest. On the other hand there are times when all all we long for is a little pure spiritual milk, in the same way a little lamb wants to be feed. Remember when God sent an angel to comfort Daniel and to satisfy the hunger of the lions who would have other wise devoured him ? We're told that the devil is like a hungry lion that proels around looking for one of us to kill steal or distroy. But not so with Daneil, God loved Him. Remember the lion that attacked King David ? God provided David the strength needed to break the jaws of that lion, just as " The Son of David "( The Seed of the Woman ) has crushed the head of old devil under His mighty foot and made a foot stool of all His enemies. Lent is a wonderful time to remember that we are the sheep and we have one Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ who lives. Even though we may walk through the valley of death , we don't need to be afraid because He is with us to protect us. Remember the time when He asked Peter to feed His sheep.
God created both lions and sheep to nurse their mothers milk when they are born before they grow up to eat meat or grass. With all this in mind it is safe to say that Lent is an opportunity for Believers to be as little children again, for of such is the Kingdom of God. As a little lion cub and as a little lamb beside it's mother with it's Creator walking in the cool of the morning in the garden ...He knows us all by name as He asks " where are you ?" Lent is an opportunity to praise God that our names are written in His book of life in heaven, written there not with ink but in the blood of the Lamb of God , His own Son, The Christ Jesus who lives and reigns forever. I've been informed that we won't be saying the Halleluyah during Lent at our Church. That seems like a stupid thing to give up for Lent. Jesus said that people at a wedding feast could not fast while the Bride Groom was with them but when the Bride Groom was not there then they would fast ( Carnival,not eat meat.) Jesus said we should wash our face and not wear sad faces or sack cloth but that when we fast we should let it be a secret with Our Father in Heaven. "Taking up" Lent could also mean that little fuzzy white stuff that gets on my black wool sweaters in the winter.We are told that His Church will be without spot or wrinkle but He didn't say that it would be without " Lent " ( Smile )

Lynn of St. John's said...

"Taking Up" for Lent and forgiveness -

A Season for Recovering from problems with debt. The ESV Matthew 6:12 says and forgive our debts as we have forgive our debtors. It serves to help me remember The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. Isn't it interesting that when we ask Jesus to teach us to pray, some Christians learn the Lord's prayer...and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Then there are those of us who He has taught to pray " forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Also- Deuteronomy 15:2 and 23:19
1 Samuel 1:28
Luke 6:35

Dan @ Necessary Roughness said...

I found your comments useful and linked to them. Thanks, Pastor.