Intro to Lent, 2009

Lent is approaching — Ash Wednesday is tomorrow.

At the Mid-Peninsula Vineyard we are in a season of reflecting on what it means to live out an authentic Christian spirituality. The Lenten season is a great opportunity for us (individually and corporately) to put into practice some of what we’re learning. For instance, identifying with Jesus and his grief and loss over the condition of humankind as he prepares to offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice for the sin that separates us from a holy and righteous God will instruct us in identifying with our own grief and loss. Additionally, Jesus models for us, on his way to the cross, what it means to live in brokenness and vulnerability. Jesus, possessing within his being the power that created our universe, still chose to submit his will to the Father’s. (Meekness, for instance, is not to be confused with weakness – it is the power of our potential under God’s control.)

For many Christ-followers, even those in the liturgical traditions, Lent can be a mystery. For some, Lent is a period of going on a diet; for others Lent a time when their Catholic friends wear ashes on their foreheads and eat fish on Fridays. Many evangelicals have found themselves strangely attracted to Lent, but know little about the Lenten season. Whatever your theological or denominational bent, we highly recommend exploring the season known as Lent.

The word Lent comes from the Teutonic (or, Germanic) word for springtime. The purpose of Lent is to be a season of reflection through prayer, fasting, repentance (of personal as well as corporate sins), simplicity, and re/focusing on an authentic Christian spirituality. The objective of our reflection is to grow closer to Jesus Christ. Thus it is fitting that the season of Lent begin with a symbol of repentance: placing ashes mixed with oil on one’s head or forehead.

In practical terms, Lent is the 40+ day season before Easter. In the West Lent liturgically lasts from Ash Wednesday until Holy Thursday (often referred to as Maundy Thursday). The evening of Holy Thursday begins the The Easter Triduum, which lasts from Holy Thursday to the Evening Prayer of Easter Day. However, Lenten fasting and reflection continue until the end of Holy Week, and all of Holy Week is included in the traditional 40 day Lenten fast (despite Lent ending liturgically on Holy Thursday). While Sundays are excluded from the Lenten fasting and abstinence restrictions, and are not numbered in the traditional “40 Days” of Lent, they are still part of the Lenten season. Thus, the way Lent is observed in the West can be a bit tricky — because the actual modern liturgical season of Lent (lasting 44 days, including Sundays) is numbered slightly differently than the traditional 40 day Lenten fast, which excludes Sundays (Get it?)

Here, to launch us into the Lenten season, is a reflection that acknowledges the brokenness of our lives and in our world and encourages us to find repentance through Christ…

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