At a time when winter 2019 appears to be more permanent than seasonal, Lent arrives as a reminder that time moves on, even if the weather seems like it wants to stay put. The term “Lent” originally comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “lencten” which means “spring.” This is the time, in the Northern Hemisphere, when the hours and minutes of daylight increase. The season began centuries ago as period of fasting leading up to the Vigil of Easter. Catechumens, those preparing for baptism at Easter, would fast and spend days in intense preparation. For those that were already baptized, Lent was a period to be renewed in their faith by studying the Bible, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer.
Although it was originally only a two-day period of preparation, Lent became a three-week preparatory period in the middle of the fourth century and then the church expanded the season into six-weeks, or forty days. By the end of the fifth century, there was a desire to exclude Sundays from Lent since Christians always celebrate Sundays as feasts of the Resurrection. Thus, Lent begins not on Sunday, but on Ash Wednesday. The current practice of forty days of Lent recall Jesus’ forty-day fast in the wilderness after his Baptism (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2) as well as Moses’ forty-day fast on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28).
What is Lent for us? For some people, Lent is a time of fasting or giving up something for the forty days. Those practices work well on an individual level, but congregationally we observe Lent together. This year, we will have two ways to focus on Jesus and the events of his life leading up to his death and resurrection. Our midweek Lenten services will be on Thursday in place of Wednesday due to a scheduling conflict I have with Wednesday. (Ash Wednesday will still have its service at 11:30, as there is no conflict with that day.) The theme for our midweek services is “Christ in the Strangest Places: Foreshadowed, Fulfilled, Forever.” Using some of the lesser-known Passion themes from the Old Testament, this series identifies some of the strangest people, places, and things through which God revealed himself to his people in the Old Testament. You will have to come to learn more about these unusual places!
Available for you take home will be a series of devotions, “Behold the Man!” published by Concordia Publishing House. “Behold the man!” Pilate’s command to the crowd at Jesus’ crucifixion speaks an incredible truth—Jesus was indeed man. More specifically, He was God and man, an eternal being inhabiting a human body. Jesus had a body. He had a nose. Knees. Toes. Bones. Fingerprints. He hungered, prayed, and bled. He had a mother, He drank wine, and He was baptized. This Lenten season, behold the man—the man who suffered, died, and rose again. The man who lived a perfect life and defeated death. The man whose death led to your life.
You might remember that in my sermon for December 30, 2018, the Sunday after Christmas when we had the reading of Jesus as a 12-year-old boy in the temple, I commented on how Luke described Jesus as growing in wisdom and years and how 2019 could be a year for you to grow in knowledge and wisdom of Christ. Lent is a perfect time to grow in Christ. As the hours of daylight grow longer, I hope you avail yourselves of these two or other opportunities to grow in Christ, in knowledge of and love for what he has done for you.
Pastor Michael Dorner