Below are personal notes I used a few years ago to teach about the holy season of Lent. The notes have not been edited in quite some time. Please allow me to apologize for any grammatical errors and content that may appear immature and convoluted: I simply don’t have time to edit old notes. Nonetheless, thank you for reading. May Christ use these unoriginal thoughts to call you into deeper communion with Him.
Historical Overview of Lent
The word Lent comes from the Middle English word lente, meaning “spring”.
The Old English word lenten means “lengthening”, a term used to describe the days becoming longer.
The forty days of Lent correlate with the forty days of temptation, prayer, fasting and preparation Jesus endured (as found in Matthew 4). Lent is commonly known as a time when – in remembering our Lord’s fast – we fast or “give-up” an activity, food or drink. The purpose is not just to abstain, but to direct the desire normally be reserved for that activity, food or drink towards communion in Christ: sitting quietly in His presence. Listening to His voice. Examining ourselves. Confessing sin. Repenting of sin. Renewing our lives to following Him. Worshiping Jesus.
The six Sundays are known as the Sundays in Lent. They do not count towards the 40 days. Sundays are a feast day, a day that Christians have been celebrating ever since the Sunday Resurrection of Jesus. If you are fasting from an activity, food or beverage during Lent, feel free to enjoy that activity, food or drink on Sunday. You will find that as a result of your increased enjoyment of Jesus – the Eternal King – your delight in that temporary thing will be more meaningful. Last year I fasted from coffee. Because my body was accustomed to a daily (over)dose of caffeine, I endured an initial two or three days of painful headaches. I was able to use those headaches as a vehicle to contemplate the pain Jesus endured while on earth, ultimately being damned by God, bearing wrath for my sin…what a Saviour! The six best cups of coffee I drank last year were on the Sundays in Lent. It wasn’t just a caffeine fix, it was an act that stirred my affections for Christ.
Using some of the Bible passages people heard read (Jonah, Job, Ezekiel, 2 Samuel), they began to impose ashes as a sign of brokenness. It became a more public practice around the 700sAD and by the 1200s, the distribution of ashes was included in the formal worship services of the church. Ash Wednesday.
While I’m not opposed to people choosing to receive ashes as a sign of repentance, it’s not a practice of mine. The scriptures speak of bearing fruit of repentance. The sign of repentance that I need and that you need is change. Change in how I think. Change in how I act. Change in how I live and see the world.
As the trees and plants use springtime to recover from wintry death, so Christians use “Lent” season to recover from being in a spiritual rut. We examine, fertilize and prune the “fruit” of our heart. Of course, the Holy Spirit does the examination and pruning. Our part is found in “work our your salvation with fear and trembling.” The increasing awareness of our selfishness (sin) is painful, but as our Lord instructs in Hebrews 12.11, “No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”
We Learn To Live When We Learn To Die
Traditionally, these 40 weekdays were used as a time of preparation for baptism candidates. The candidates would spend time in prayer and devotion, preparing to make their public confession of faith in Jesus. As the Scriptures teach, baptism symbolizes death – “Buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in newness of life.”
Eventually this time of preparation spread to those who had already made a public confession of faith in Christ. Hence we begin our 40-day journey into the wilderness, preparing ourselves for confession, repentance and renewal to God’s mission. We will end our journey at the bloody Cross upon which Jesus died. We will discover that life is found in death. Jesus said “you will not find your life until you lose your life for My sake.” Good Friday is a dark day. It is a difficult day. It is a day of death. It should have been my death. Instead, it was His death caused by my sin.
However, Christ Jesus has Resurrected! And our King will return to make all things new. Though this body is wasting away, spiritually we are being renewed day by day. The grave has been conquered! Sin had left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow. With each passing day, the death of death becomes closer. In our earthly sojourn, we must die in Christ’s death to find life in Christ’s Resurrection. In our daily life, we die to self and experience the renewing power of the Holy Spirit.
There is no Resurrection without a Cross.
It is impossible to fully celebrate the joy of Resurrection Sunday until we have fully embraced the reality of Good Friday.