A Church of Christ Preacher’s Take on Lent

1. What is Lent?

Lent began as a season of preparation for baptism. In some traditions it started as a 40-hour fast, and in others it has always been a 40-day fast. The number 40 is representative of Jesus spending 40 days in the desert fasting and praying in preparation for his ministry. Historically, the 40-day Lenten period started 40 days before Easter, and on Easter Sunday participants were baptized. 

Lent is an opportunity to become more like the resurrected Jesus in anticipation of Easter Sunday. By resurrection, we are transformed into the image of Christ and invited to participate in his mission – to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for the prisoners, sight for the blind, and set the oppressed free. During Lent, we fast from those things that are selfish, and participate in those things that are sacrificial and bring about justice. Many use this time to quit drinking sodas or cut back on chocolate, but the deeper sense of Lent invites us to rid our lives of those things that prevent justice and/or our awareness of people in need.

In addition to fasting, many choose to add something to their lives that put them more in tune with the Kingdom. For instance, some spend time each day in scripture. Others find places to volunteer. And still others find specific ways to bring about justice in the communities in which they live.

2. Can I eat meat?

Over the years many elements have been added to the 40 days of fasting. Some participants avoid certain foods like red meat, and that’s why you’ll see lots of ads for fish sandwiches during Lent or crawfish boils in places like New Orleans and Houston. In fact, it is quite common for people to eat a vegetarian – or even vegan – diet during Lent. Food is an important part of the Lenten journey because in preparing ourselves for the resurrected Jesus, we need to redirect our hunger. Food is symbolic of that which we crave, that which we rely on for daily sustenance and life. By limiting the types and amounts of food we eat, we remind ourselves that our primary hunger ought to be for Jesus and the life of justice and redemption to which he calls us.

3. When does the fast begin and end?

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and ends Easter Sunday. You may notice that’s more than 40 days. Some observe their fast every day from Ash Wednesday through Easter; others break their fast on Sunday’s. Ash Wednesday exists to give those who don’t observe a fast on Sunday’s a full 40 days of fasting (Fasting six days a week for six weeks only gives a person 36 days of fasting. Backing it up to Ash Wednesday allows the full 40 days). Whether you fast every day or break your fast on Sunday’s, it’s recommended to fast from Ash Wednesday all the way to Easter, even if you go over 40 days. By doing so, you join with millions of Jesus followers around the world simultaneously ridding their lives of selfishness and worldliness, replacing it with sacrifice, justice, and love. There is joy to be found in being part of a much larger whole rather than walking an individual journey alone.

4. What am I giving up?

Personally, I plan to give up my social media: Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’ve chosen to fast from these because I often find myself craving acceptance and affirmation through the things I post. I can become so preoccupied with people’s comments (or lack thereof) that I become unproductive in things that really matter.

In addition to fasting from social media, I plan to read and study the book of Isaiah. Jesus seemed to find great insight in this prophet’s words, so in an attempt to understand the Kingdom as Jesus did, I will pour over Isaiah for the full 44 days of Lent. 

5. What are you giving up/adding to your life during Lent?

Let’s hear it. What will you give up in an effort to be a greater participant in the mission of Jesus? What will you do during the Lent season to join Jesus in the work he’s doing in the neighborhoods, cities, and world around you?

4 responses to “A Church of Christ Preacher’s Take on Lent

  1. Very informational. I had forgotten the meaning of lent so it was good to be reminded.

  2. Considering Lent is not even found in the NT, why would I want to do it? I mean, shouldn’t my focus be on God daily? Shouldn’t I “die daily” – Lk 9? Problem with Lent is it is a man-made holiday. Many who preach and observe it suggest that if you don’t do it, you are sinning. That’s making a law that God hasn’t made. God does not judge us based on man-made laws, but on the Gospel of Christ (Jn 12:48-50). I am all for giving up anything which distracts us from Christ, but let’s not relegate it to once a year…let’s make that decision daily!

  3. Thanks for your comment Aaron. I think we tend to overthink the whole “man-made traditions” idea. No, Lent is not explicitly mentioned in the NT, but neither are:
    Sunday night church
    Wednesday night church
    youth rallies
    devotionals
    a personal relationship with Jesus
    the Trinity
    or the Bible.

    The Bible didn’t exist when the Bible was being written, so the fact that most of us even own one is technically “unbiblical,” as is our expectation that people study and learn it.

    We also avoid things explicitly mentioned in scripture, like:
    expecting each person to come with a hymn, a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation (1 Cor. 14:26)
    women covering their heads when they pray (1 Cor. 11:5-6)
    greeting each other with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16)
    teaching that believers save their non-believing spouses (1 Cor. 7:14)
    practicing communion as a meal (1 Cor. 11:17-22)
    speaking in tongues (1 Cor. 14)

    Lent is not explicitly mentioned in the NT, but it is certainly a beneficial practice as it prepares our hearts for celebration of the resurrection.

    That being said, I agree 100% that living out the reality of the resurrection ought to be a daily occurrence, not just something reserved for certain seasons.

    I hope you give Lent a chance this coming year and use it as a time to cleanse your life in order to prepare to celebrate the risen Christ.

  4. Cory:

    I think the problem is that we “underthink” instead of “overthink”. You mention a few things you say are not explicitly mentioned in the NT, but you fail to recognize that all of the items mentioned are indeed implied in the NT. Check it out:

    Sunday night church – please read Acts 20:7 where they worshipped at night.

    Wednesday night church – please read Acts 2:46 where they met daily, not just on Sunday. We have the right to meet on any day of the week for fellowship, encouragement, meals, study, prayer, etc.

    Youth rallies – please read Eph 4:12 where we are explicitly told to equip the saints. Teaching our children what it takes to “be a saint” requires teaching, instruction, time, and yes, events like youth rallies. Since we are to equip for the work of ministry and service to God, then youth rallies are implied in that and a tool to get it done.

    Devotionals – Isn’t a devotional a time of singing, prayer and preaching? Can’t we sing at any time (Eph 5:19), pray w/out ceasing (1 Thess 5:17) and preach anytime (2 Tim 4:2)? Devotional times are implied in what Christians are supposed to do.

    A personal relationship with Jesus – Don’t we have to come to Jesus (Jn 6:45)? Are we not to follow Jesus (Mk 8:34-39)? Isn’t it true that God loves us (Jn 3:16)? Isn’t it true that Jesus is His son (Jn 20:31; Mt 16:16-18; Mk 3:11)? Then, would it not follow that if He loves us and if we love Him (1 Jn 4:19) then that is a relationship? Can you show me any two people who love each other, but do not have a relationship???

    Trinity – This is a Latin word. Since the English NT you use was not translated from Latin, but from Greek, the translators use the Greek word and translated it to English and therefore we have the word, Godhead. Please read Romans 1:20; Col 2:9 to find that word.

    You wrote: “The Bible didn’t exist when the Bible was being written, so the fact that most of us even own one is technically “unbiblical,” as is our expectation that people study and learn it.”

    My response to that is…that is quite possibly the most foolish thing I have ever heard. Here are a few reasons why:
    The word “Bible” means “book” or “books”. God’s word has always existed, but in different forms. First it was in oral form spoken to Adam, Noah, Abraham, etc. Second, it was written down by Moses and then other prophets as God gave His words to them. The writing took many forms. When Moses and others wrote in the OT times, they wrote on scrolls, which Jesus was also familiar with (Jer 36:2; Lk 4:16-20). Lk 4:17 and 20 could read, “And He was handed the Bible…” since the word BIBLION is where we get our word BIBLE. NT writers wrote letters (Col 4:16) which were recognized as Scripture (1 Tim 5:18; , passed around, copied, and stored in book form, called a CODEX, instead of in scroll form. So technically, the word “Bible” is as “Biblical” as it gets, since it is used “in the Bible”.

    Also, our expectation “that people study and learn it” is not unbiblical. If righteous people studied and learned God’s Word, then we should too – please read 2 Tim 2:15; Deut 17:19; Prov 22:17-21.

    You say “we avoid these things explicitly mentioned in scripture…” I don’t avoid them. Do you? I teach on them. Preach on them. But, I study to know the difference between what was a command for “then” and what we are supposed to do today. Example: They did miracles then. Can you do miracles now, like raising the dead?

    Problem with Lent is that it was created by the Catholic church and is a sin if one does not fast. See Catholic Encyclopedia under “Fast” which shows that not keeping Lent and fasting is a “venial” sin (where they believe you go to purgatory and will pay for your sins, then be released from purgatory later).

    Point: Instead of “underthinking” Lent…lets rethink it. Is it a sin to keep Lent or not? Let’s do Bible things in Bible ways and use Biblical words. Lent is not implied in Scriptures so why do it? Fasting, however, can be done at any time and is a choice.

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