Originating in the 4th century, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays – beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and concluding on the Saturday before Easter. Originally, Lent was a time of preparation – concentrated study and prayer – for those who were to be baptized on Easter. And since these new members were to be received into the community of faith, the entire church was called to preparation. In addition, this was also a time when those who had been separated from the Church would prepare to rejoin the community.
Therefore, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days and are referred to as the Sundays “in Lent.” The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, fasting and preparing for his ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Thus, Christians today use Lent as a time for self-examination and repentance, combined with spiritual practices such as prayer, fasting, and giving as a way of preparing to celebrate God’s marvelous redemption at Easter.
During this season, our preaching focus will be rooted in the prescribed Gospel readings for Lent. After the temptation in the wilderness (this Sunday), the story being told is clear – “He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” The central theme is that Jesus is going to the cross, and as his followers, we are invited to go with him trusting his promise that there is resurrection on the other side.
P.S. The word lent is from the Old English word lencten. Lencten means “spring.” Literally, it means the lengthening of days as the sun’s light lingers in the sky. So, as Lent begins, we can be especially thankful that spring is on the way!
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