Lent began last week on February 17th. The church season of Lent always begins with Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter morning when Christians joyfully celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.
Lent is 40 days long – not including Sundays. Technically Lent is 46 days long – but the number 40 is highly symbolic for Christians – so we like to focus on the 40. Think of the rains that fell during the flood in Noah’s time for 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:4). Israel ate manna in the desert for 40 years during their journey from slavery in Egypt to freedom in the Promised Land (Exodus 16:35). Think of Jesus’ 40 days and 40 nights of fasting and prayer in the desert right before he began his earthly ministry. Jesus remained on earth for 40 days following his resurrection from the dead (Acts 1:3). There are many other interesting times the number 40 comes up in the Bible.
(And yes – Bible nerds like me do love this sort of stuff – why do you ask?)
Lent is a solemn time. A time for penance and repentance. We don’t count Sundays because Sunday is the day our Lord and Savior was raised from the dead. For Christians Sundays are always days of joy and celebration.
The dates for the season of Lent and Easter are closely linked to the Jewish celebration of Passover, because Jesus was arrested the very evening he ate the Passover meal with his disciples. In fact – the very first Holy Communion took place during a Passover meal. (Matthew 26:17-30 – Mark 14:12-26 – Luke 22:7-23 – John 13:1-20)
Passover is a lunar holiday which makes Easter a lunar holiday too. Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday following the full moon that occurs on or just after the spring equinox. Christian Church calendars state that the spring equinox always falls on March 21st. This year – the first full moon after March 21 will take place on March 28. This means Easter is on Sunday, April, 4, 2021. (I am so glad someone other than me figures this out every year!)
(Again with the nerdy church stuff – but I can’t help myself sometimes. My Bible nerd just leaks out!)
Lent is traditionally a time in the year when Christians pause in the midst of their often busy – bustling lives to focus on their relationship with their Lord.
We spend extra time focusing on getting right with God. We focus on our need to repent. We tell God all about what we have done wrong and we tell God we are sorry. Sorry we have hurt others. Sorry we have broken His commandments. Sorry we have fallen short of God’s hopes and expectations of us.
We make sacrifices and give things up for Lent. At our house this year – we are giving up purchasing yarn – eating M & M’s – eating chocolate in ANY form – and ice cream. Sacrifice – giving up something we love – has been a way Christians throughout the centuries have tried to draw closer to our Lord. By making our own sacrifices we remember more clearly the incredible sacrifice Jesus made when he died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.
Another way Christians have traditionally honored the season of Lent is by spending more time with our Lord. I invite you to join me in this spiritual practice. Each Saint Stephen household received at least one Lenten calendar in the mail recently. These calendars include a thought for each day of Lent for us to ponder as well as a brief passage of God’s Word for us to read. These Lenten calendars make daily Bible reading and reflection a very approachable discipline.
I would also like to invite you to join me each Wednesday right here on the blog (pastorkerri.com) for a brief Lenten worship service. The theme this year for our Lenten worship is the hymn #334 from the Evangelical Lutheran Worship: “Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery.” Each week we will focus on one of the five Lenten verses of this truly beautiful hymn.
“Tree of Life and Awesome Mystery”
Evangelical Lutheran Worship #334
From the dawning of creation you have loved us as your own; stay with us through all temptation make us turn to you alone.
In our call to be a blessing, may we be a blessing true; may we live and die confessing Christ as Lord of all we do.
Living Water of salvation, be the fountain of each soul; springing up in new creation, flow in us and make us whole.
Give us eyes to see you clearly; make us children of your light. Give us hearts to live more nearly as your gospel shining bright.
God of all our fear and sorrow, God who lives beyond our death, hold us close through each tomorrow, love us near as every breath.
I am joining with four other local ELCA pastors to bring you these Wednesday Lenten worship services. Pastor Ken Boehm from Ascension – Pastor Ron Poisel who was the pastor of Christ Lutheran in Jeffersontown for many years before retiring – Pastor Andy Rutrough from Saint John’s in Saint Matthews – and Pastor Claire Ackleow from Faith Lutheran across the river in Jeffersonville, IN.
The preacher for the first week will be familiar to you – but in the following weeks we will be blessed to hear from new voices and to hear new perspectives. Please take a few minutes each week to join us on this Lenten journey.
I encourage you to draw closer to your Lord during this Lenten season. Throughout the Bible God promises that he is with us always. We are not living through these challenging times alone. Our Lord is with us. He will strengthen us and care for us and surround us with his love.
Please know you are all in my heart, thoughts, and prayers.
In Christ and with Love –