When the Christmas season is over, it always seems to me that Lent and Easter are a long way in the distance. Yet in actuality I feel like we just got the holiday decorations stored away and Lent is already upon us.
Lent has a long history in the Christian Church. “The 40 Days of Lent” was referenced by the Council of Nicea in 325, just a dozen years or so after the Christian faith was legalized in the Roman Empire. In the early days, Lent was a time for catechism (instruction) and preparation for those being baptized on Easter Sunday, one of only four days each year that baptisms were performed.
The number 40 has great significance in both the Hebrew texts (Old Testament) and the New Testament: The rains of the Great Flood in Genesis fell for 40 days and 40 nights, Moses stayed on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights upon receiving the 10 Commandments, the prophet Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb (another name for Sinai), and of course Jesus was tempted by the devil while in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights after his baptism.
If you’re good with numbers, you may notice that Lent actually is longer than 40 days. That’s because the six Sundays are not counted, allowing a weekly break from the demands of the season. The way Lent is observed has changed and evolved over the centuries; rules and traditions on the fasting and dietary restrictions have come and gone and today vary by faith group. But Lent is still understood as a time of prayer, self-reflection and repentance, and, for many, self-denial, “giving up something for Lent.” The tradition of fasting and self-denial might lead Christians to reflect on what Jesus endured during those 40 days and nights in the wilderness, but we also can consider the astounding sacrificial love of God made real in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and how we as Christians can faithfully respond to that love.
One part of self-reflection is understanding who we are as people of God and where God might have a purpose for us. The sermons during the weekly Wednesday worship services during Lent in 2020 will have the theme “Shaped for Serving” and will focus on the word SHAPE as an acronym. Each week’s message will explore one of the letters of that word. This is a subject first introduced by Pastor Rick Warren in his best-selling book The Purpose-Driven® Church and expanded upon in a separate book by Warren’s colleague Erik Rees, called SHAPE: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life. Each letter of the word SHAPE corresponds to ways God uses to prepare us to discover our unique purpose in life:
S—Spiritual gifts: Unwrapping our God-given treasures
H—Heart: Discovering our true passion
A—Abilities: Discovering what are we naturally good at
P—Personality: Discovering who God made us to be
E—Experiences: Discovering where we have been
Alongside the sermons, Pastor Ted will lead a book study on Rees’ book each Wednesday from March 4 through April 1 (so, not Ash Wednesday) following the noon and 6:30 Lenten worship services.
This sermon series and book study will offer a great opportunity for all of us to explore and identify where God may be at work in our lives and might open our eyes to paths for serving and glorifying God that we hadn’t considered before.
Please plan to join us for weekly Wednesday Lenten worship and Pastor Ted’s book study. While you don’t need to have the book to join the study time, it is available through online book sellers if you want a copy of your own. Contact the church office by February 26 with questions or if you need help getting a copy of the book.