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 6 and Easter is Sunday, April 21.
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 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 CATALYST
Lent is about confessing and repenting of sin, which is hard enough for the sins we’re aware of. But we also know we all participate in sins that are so deeply embedded in our lives we don’t even recognize them. We think we’re a little hot-headed but our co-workers walk on eggshells. We see ourselves as hard-workers, but our family never sees us. We imagine ourselves as a funny person, but women or persons of other races don’t feel safe around us.
We’re masters of self-deception. How can we learn to spot those sins we’ve hidden from ourselves? Journalist Melissa Dahl’s book Cringeworthy offers a surprising antidote: awkwardness. Awkwardness is what we feel when we see ourselves through someone else’s eyes (or when we watch someone else experience that). Though our natural tendency is to run from awkwardness (make a joke, shake it off, leave the situation), if we can bring ourselves to stay in the awkward, we can learn to spot those sins we’ve hidden away.
During Lent, we’re going to explore some of the most awkward stories in Scripture, from Judah and Tamar to Nathan’s confrontation with David to when Paul calls out Peter in front of all his friends. All along the way, we’ll be praying with the Psalmist, “Point out anything in me that offends you, God, and lead me to everlasting life.”
Awkwardness contains a surprising spiritual promise. So let’s make it awkward.
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.
The 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.
Traditionally, 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.