At the center of the Christian faith is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The good news of the gospel is that God entered into our history — human history — so that we might know the depth of his great love for us. For those who have submitted their lives to Jesus, forgiveness and freedom through Christ has been made readily available. This is exactly the story we remember and rehearse throughout the Lenten season.
On the Christian calendar, Lent (from Latin, meaning fortieth) is the season, which begins with Ash Wednesday and concludes with Easter. It is a season that, like Advent, has marked believers throughout the centuries. Traditionally, Lent has been known to last from 40 days (although there is actually quite a bit of variety when it comes to different streams observing Lent in different ways).
What’s the deal with the number forty then? Simply put, forty is a biblical number. The number appears again and again in the Old and New Testament as a part of particular narratives that play a significant role in the story of God. If you recall, Noah and his family endured rain for forty days on the ark, Israel wandered in the desert for forty years, Jesus was tempted for forty days in the wilderness, and spent forty days on earth after his resurrection.
Forty days has been used by God to represent a period of trial, suffering, temptation, preparation and much more. Historically these have remained some of the main marks of Lent.
The number forty, therefore, isn’t just a seeming coincidence, but a symbolic similarity that should in turn form our understanding for the season of Lent as we prepare to remember, rehearse and indwell the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection—the most powerful story the world has ever known.
The purpose of Lent has always been for the sake of God’s people. It’s for us to participate in and practice as a community. It is meant to be a season in which we can position ourselves to be formed by the Holy Spirit to be the community that reflects the glory of God.
Here’s How It’s Going to Work
Each day from now until Easter Sunday, we will publish a guide for reflection. Each day will consist of prayer, Scripture reading, meditation, and reflection questions, which are all aimed at connecting you with God during these six weeks of preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus.
For each of the next four weeks, there is a thematic focus: lament, suffering, justice and love. While these themes are not exclusive to Lent, they certainly help to capture the heart and soul of the season. These themes also give form to the Scripture passages chosen, the written prayers, and the reflection questions that are posed. Each new theme will begin on a Sunday.
While the themes will change throughout the course of the six weeks, each day will follow the distinct rhythm and pattern outlined as follows:
The opening prayer will be in the form of a written prayer crafted by one of our pastors or staff members or a liturgical prayer from the BCP (Book of Common Prayer), the Valley of Vision, or elsewhere. There will be one prayer for each theme. We will read the same prayer for six days (there is a different prayer introduced every Sunday). We challenge you to engage in the beauty of repetition. Ask God to speak to you as these prayers become your own throughout each week.
Each day you will have a section of Scripture to read that relates to the theme for each week. The reading will typically be no more than ten verses (though there may be some exceptions to this).
Lectio Divina - This is Latin for “Divine Reading.” It is an ancient practice of reading and meditating on Scripture. Saint Benedict developed this method in the sixth century. This method of reading Scripture prioritizes what God might be speaking to you through the reading of his word. This method is broken up into four distinct movements: READ, REFLECT, WRITE & REST.
- READ – Read the text slowly and repeat it (out loud or silently) until 5 minutes has concluded.
- REFLECT – Select a word or phrase that sticks out to you and reflect on why that word or phrase might be significant to you.
- WRITE – Spend 5 minutes writing why you selected that word or phrase, perhaps crafting a prayer to God as you do this.
- REST – Spend time resting in what you have written and what God has spoken. If you want to, you can set a timer for 5 minutes and simply rest in the truth that God has given to you.
After your time in Lectio Divina, spend some time contemplating one or two questions about the passage you just read that may help draw out what God could have been speaking to you. A lot of these questions will help you to not only think about what God might saying, but will also help you to respond to God in action.
Prayer of Confession
Lastly, we will end with a prayer of confession. Confession is a mark of the Lenten season. It will again be a prayer that relates to the reading and the theme for the week. Press into this confession and make it your own. Do not leave this time of confession without a sense of God’s grace in your life.
A Note about Sundays
Sunday is the only exception to the regular rhythm outlined above. In some ways, Lenten tradition has often considered each Sunday leading up to Easter to be a foretaste of what is to come. Therefore each Sunday will be centered around a prayer of Reflection. Let this be a time in which you remember and reflect on the gospel of Jesus Christ and let the celebratory prayer lead you into gospel truth.
To Start: A Prayer of Lament
We’ve experienced loss. We’ve experienced the brokenness of the world. We’ve experienced the darkness of sin, and death, and separation from God and others. But we do not grieve as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). So for today, we encourage you to pray with us this Prayer of Lament in the face of our weaknesses:
Help my infirmities;
When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow,
Perplexed and knowing not what to do,
Slandered and persecuted,
Made to feel the weight of the cross,
Help me, I pray thee.
If thou seest in me any wrong thing encouraged,
Any evil desire cherished,
Any delight that is not thy delight,
Any habit that grieves thee,
Any nest of sin in my heart,
Then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
And teach my feet to walk the way of thy commandments.