Hi guys. We observed Lent for the first time, last year. Though newbies we are nonetheless excited, eager, and hungry. Scroll past all these words and you will find some resources we have found to be particularly helpful; books, articles, and podcasts (obvi). We chose resources from a myriad of origins because they ALL have something to offer. Some are Lutheran, some are Catholic, some are Anglican and some are “non-denominational.” Lent is a practice that has been passed down through the ages and thus through the many branches of tradition. It is truly an ancient practice that dates all the way back to 313 A.D.
BUT FIRST! What the heck IS Lent?
Lent is a penitential season. It is a time set aside to prepare ourselves for the celebration of The Lord’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and is observed everyday following, up until Easter
However most choose not to observe Lent on Sundays, taking a break from the Lenten disciplines
Some would say that Lent is specifically tied to Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness. Others would say it is specifically tied to the theme of 40 days throughout Scripture rather than one particular event. For example . . .
God flooded the earth for 40 days/nights
The people of Ninevah repented by fasting for 40 days
The Israelites wandered for 40 years in the desert
Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness
Why does Lent matter?
Lent is a physical, tangible way for us to partake in a spiritual process. In observing lent, our whole selves, both the material and immaterial, are involved. This quote says it best, “Lenten disciplines are supposed to ultimately transform our entire person: body, soul, and spirit, and help us become more like Christ.”
Further down you will find a link for John Piper’s book A Hunger For God (it is totally worth your time). Within, Piper explains fasting to be much more than choosing to go without food. Sometimes it is no more than choosing to give up television, shopping, or a candy bar. There’s nothing too big but there is certainly nothing too small either. In fact, it’s often the smallest things that are the hardest. Piper writes,
“Christian fasting, at it’s root is the hunger of a homesickness for God.”
I don’t know about you but that quote makes me go weak in the knees. It also brings to mind St. Augustine’s poignant reminder,
“Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
Friends, if nothing, Lent is to bring us back to God. It is to create a stirring, a longing within. It’s to remind us that we NEED Easter. We need a Saviour who leaves behind an empty tomb. We need a Saviour who can conquer death. We need a Saviour who can both save us from the talons of lust and the talons of chocolate cake. The problem isn’t sex. The problem isn’t cake. The problem is our desires. C.S. Lewis writes,
“our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”
When our desires are rightfully ordered, we can enjoy God’s good gifts as they were meant to be. Because of Jesus, chocolate cake is even better. Because of Jesus, sex is even brighter. Fasting is not a gnostic practice. Fasting is a Christian practice. We fast not because the body is bad. We fast not because food or New Girl or wine is bad. We fast (from whatever it may be) because God’s gifts are GOOD.
Lent is Solemn
Some choose to drape dark cloth over artwork, pictures, or ornamental items in their churches and homes. A dear friend who grew up in the Catholic church shared with us that they abstained from using the word “hallelujah” during Lent. That may seem like a minor detail but in Catholicism, this is a major detail. Singing “hallelujah” was a fixed point in their liturgical worship. The change in liturgy served as a reminder that Lent is solemn and a bit dark. It creates a longing for Easter morning, a day when we CAN shout “hallelujah” because “He is risen indeed!”
The Seasons Have Seasons
Did you know the Church calendar is set to coincide with the four seasons? The fasts and feasts of the liturgical year are not at random, they are so specific and designed to (once again) involve our whole self. The bleak of winter, the new life found in spring, the haze of summer, the harvest of fall . . . . it involves our five senses and creates a stirring within.
Lastly, we leave you with this synopsis,
“The word Lent is derived from an Anglo-Saxon word lengthen or lencten meaning "spring." We are "to spring" into action, to do the tasks of the season, to prepare for the new growth and graces that overflow from Easter. Spring is the most important season for a farmer, for it determines what crops he will plant. Once decided, he prepares the soil thoroughly and plants the seed carefully, hoping that the seed buried deep in the soil will produce an abundant crop.”
A Hunger for God // John Piper (the PDF both free and found on the left side of the page)
An Ash Wednesday Reflection (for those of you who have trouble embracing the "doom and gloom" of Lent)
We love Carrots of Michaelmas. Great resources for families with little ones.
Why Failing at Lent - May be Succeeding at Lent? A really encouraging read from A Holy Experience
Sacred Ordinary Days (great for learning more about the liturgical year in general)
Taking the "Womp, Womp" out of Lent // The Fountains of Carrots Podcast