A Guide to Observing Lent

Lent is an opportunity for us to take seriously Jesus' sacrifice for us.Lent is the 6 week period leading up to Easter Sunday. It begins on Ash Wednesday. The Church has historically set aside this period of time to prepare ourselves to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus.

This year, Ash Wednesday is March 1 and Easter is Sunday, April 16.

WHO OBSERVES LENT?

Christians all over the world participate in Lent, and we have records of Christians observing Lent going back very early in Church history. Lent is a practice that can unite Christians across denominational lines, reminding us that we are all rescued from Death by one God and one Resurrection.

WHY OBSERVE LENT?

Lent helps us take Jesus' death more seriously, and celebrate his resurrection more fully.Easter has a tendency to sneak up on us. But we want our celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus to be intentional, to last longer than an hour one Sunday morning a year.

Lent prepares us to observe Jesus’ death and experience more fully the power of his resurrection.

By taking 40 days to examine ourselves, to take seriously the sin in our lives, we become more aware of our need for rescue. Of our inability to save ourselves. So when we come to celebrate the Resurrection, we have a renewed appreciation for our salvation and what it means to live in the freedom Jesus brought us.

THIS YEAR AT OUR CHURCH

Too often, we think faith is about winning – getting our way in the culture or in our homes. But during Lent, we’ll trace the human journey through the Old Testament and see that getting what we want never works out like we hope. We’ll see how Jesus enters into our failure and becomes a loser just like us. Somehow, his failure is good news for us. It turns out God is for losers, which is good news for all us failures.

Lent is a journey downward, following God to his death on the Cross.

HOW DO WE OBSERVE LENT?

Lent begins with a worship gathering on Ash Wednesday. Christians take communion together and receive ashes on our foreheads as a mark of repentance and humility. We begin our season of serious reflection on our sin and its consequences: Death. If you’re in the Dallas area, you’re welcome to join us at Catalyst Church at 7pm. If your church isn’t doing an Ash Wednesday gathering, you should be able to find one near you.

CLICK HERE FOR 40 IDEAS FOR PRACTICES TO DO DURING LENT.

LentCloudThe most common central Lenten practice is the Lenten Fast. There are 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Resurrection Sunday, not counting the Sundays. Christians fast during those 40 days in imitation of Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).

The fast reminds us that we cannot save ourselves, that our life comes ultimately from God.

LentMeatTraditionally, Christians have given up meat, or meat and dairy for the six weeks of Lent. Sundays are not part of the fast; we call them mini-Easters, and they are a feast day! (This is why there are 40 days of Lent, but 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter. The six Sundays are not counted.)

Today, Christians fast from any number of things from the more traditional meat and dairy to desserts or social media. The purpose of the fast is to give up something dear to you, so that its absence reminds you of your total dependence on God.

You can also add something: a time of daily scripture reading or prayer or a consistent act of service.

Lent is a reminder to prepare for Easter, to acknowledge our need for a doctor and to trust God for our rescue.

HAVE YOU OBSERVED LENT BEFORE? HOW ARE YOU OBSERVING LENT THIS YEAR? WHAT PRACTICES DO YOU FIND MOST MEANINGFUL?

Author: JR. Forasteros

JR. lives in Dallas, TX with his wife Amanda. In addition to exploring the wonders that are the Lone Star state, JR. is the teaching pastor at Catalyst Community Church, a writer and blogger. He's haunted by the Batman, who is in turn haunted by the myth of redemptive violence.

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