Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan; come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— A Lenten Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer
Since ancient times the church has observed a season of fasting and intentional austerity, consisting of the forty days (plus Sundays) leading up to Easter. This season began as a forty-day period of preparation and instruction for baptismal candidates, but eventually came to be observed by baptized Christians as a way of preparing our hearts to celebrate the wonder of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
To be a Christian necessarily involves a heart posture of contrition and repentance toward God. Though Christians are always called to this heart posture, the season of Lent provides us space to practice that repentance with our bodies as well. A sustained consideration of our creaturely mortality and our moral culpability leads us to repentance, to renewed discipline, and to worship of our crucified and risen Lord.
As a church, we will corporately observe Lent together in various ways. We will begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday services on February 10th at 7am, 5:30pm and 7pm at 3921 Baltimore. This service will last under an hour, and we will engage in prayer and song together and receive the imposition of the ashes. Throughout the season of Lent we will focus on themes of humility, simplicity, sobriety, even sorrow—themes we tend to avoid the rest of the year. Finally, during Holy Week (the final week leading up to Easter), we will have a Good Friday service in which we will allow the scriptures take us to the scene of our Lord’s betrayal, arrest, trial, crucifixion and burial, setting us up for a deep celebration Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.
As individuals and families, I would encourage you to put some thought into how you might practice the observance of Lent through fasting and discipline. The idea behind fasting is to identify something in your life that you tend to use to avoid feeling deeply or facing reality. This might be certain types of food, social media, alcohol, Netflix or anything to which you find yourself turning for distraction or self-medication. Since every Sunday is a resurrection feast for Christians, you might suspend your fast on Sundays. Or, if a 40-day fast is intimidating to you, you might choose only one day each week to abstain. The point is to cultivate a hunger for God by taking away something in our lives that’s not necessarily bad or sinful, but might be satisfying us in a superficial way where God wants to satisfy our souls deeply. For families, this can lead to great conversation as the season progresses about how we are each experiencing the fast and how God is speaking to each of us.
You also might consider engaging in a particular discipline to cultivate affections for and obedience to God. Some decide to engage in some kind of service to others, while others read through all the Psalms, for example, or memorize one of Paul’s shorter epistles. Crossway Publishers has made a 40-day reading guide available on their website, with readings based on The Final Days of Jesus by Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor.
Whatever ways you choose to observe the season of Lent, let’s aim together to cultivate deeper affections for the triune God and to practice our faith in such a way that he gets great glory and our city becomes a better place.