The Season of Lent 2017
Here is a quick Q&A for better understanding this season of Lent at New City Church.
Why do Christians use the season of Lent to prepare for Easter?
The Christian message is proclaimed upon two great miracles: the Incarnation and the Resurrection. Every year at Christmas, Christians around the world mark the day in which we celebrate the miracle of God becoming a man in the person of Jesus Christ. Likewise, Christians mark another day called ‘Easter’ in which we celebrate the miracle of Jesus conquering death by His resurrection from the dead.
Because these two miracles are so defining for the world, many Christian traditions across the spectrum spend extra time contemplating, reflecting, and preparing to celebrate these days. Just like the season of Advent is a season of preparation to celebrate the Incarnation, so the season of Lent is a season of preparation to celebrate Resurrection on Easter Sunday.
What does the word “Lent” mean?
The name of the season, “Lent,” comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word which simply means “Spring.” The season of Lent spans the 40 days prior to Easter (not counting the six Sundays of Lent) and is characterized by a special focus upon seeking God through repentance and renewed faith. Spring is a fitting metaphor as we see the physical world awake from the deadness of winter to new life and beauty, so we want to shake off the coldness of our hearts and warm to the work of God in our lives.
The season of Lent traditionally begins on “Ash Wednesday” which gets its name from the fact that in Scripture people would often put ashes on their heads as a sign of repentance. For example, the Prophet Daniel once said, “Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting and sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). Ashes are also a reminder of our mortality: “All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return” (Ecclesiastes 3:20). So Ash Wednesday signals the start of a season of deliberately turning from our sin and seeking God. It is always appropriate to spend some time asking the Lord, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139:23-24).
What are we focusing upon during Lent?
On each of the six Sundays of Lent, we will focus on the book of Lamentations. It is a series of tear soaked prayers likely composed by the Prophet Jeremiah during dark days following the sack of Jerusalem by Babylon in 587BC. By reflecting on this much neglected book, we’ll rediscover the lost art of lament, that is, the lost art finding your voice when life doesn’t make sense.
Lament is a sacred sorrow that feels deeply the brokenness of this world and desperately longs for a better one. It is a protest against the way things are as well as a voiced struggle to believe the promises of God for a better future—one summed up in the words of Jesus as the “kingdom of God.”
Throughout our study, we’ll be reminded of Jesus, the one who was called Immanuel, (God with us) and was known as the man of sorrows. And we’ll learn from Lamentations and from Jesus what it means to entrust ourselves to the God who will one day set this world aright. In the meantime, we live with the tension of a broken and often violent world. And we do so with an unguarded form of prayer called lament.
How can I benefit the most from the season of Lent?
There are some simple ways that you can make this season of Lent a valuable season in your own journey of understanding what it means to live for the One who died for you.
Make it a priority to worship with others every Sunday at New City Church. On each of the six Sundays of Lent leading up to the celebration of Easter, we’ll be seeking to grow deeper in our relationship with God.
Use the season of Lent to read through the Gospel of John and some key Psalms (click here to download reading guide). Reading through a Gospel during the season of Lent is an especially appropriate journey as we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.
Spend time pursuing fellowship with other believers. If you are a Christian, share your story about coming to faith in Christ with others. Share with other believers how you want to grow more as a follower of Christ. Or if you are exploring Christianity, ask some Christians about their own faith journey.
Spend time in prayerful self-examination every day (perhaps journaling).
- How sensitive am I to the work of God’s Spirit in and through my life?
- Where and to what extent do I see the fruit of the Spirit in my life? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control (cf. Galatians 5).
- How is my appetite for the Scriptures? Can I say with the Psalmist that God’s Word is “more to be desired than gold, even much fine gold”?
- In what areas of my life have I shown hardness of heart towards God, or coldness of heart towards others?
- Why do I get so defensive? Why can’t I take criticism better? Why do I live or die upon another’s approval of me?
- In what ways do materialism and the desire for ‘new things’ have a stronghold in my life?
- How is my prayer life? Why do I find it so hard to pray at times?
- Is there someone to whom I need to extend forgiveness? Is there someone from whom I need to seek forgiveness?
Pick up a few resources to aid in your spiritual formation.
- When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Your Joy by John Piper
- Whiter Than Snow: Meditations on Sin & Mercy by Paul David Tripp
- Christ Formed In You: The Power of the Gospel for Personal Change by Brian Hedges
- Look and Live: Behold the Soul-Thrilling, Sin-Destroying Glory of Christ, by Matt Papa.
Think of this season as a time of renewal and refocusing on your relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. Simply be intentional in seeking God’s face. Turn. Repent. Rest. Rejoice. And remember: the Lord Jesus came for us, and for our salvation. Amen