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):
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:
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.
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.