Lent, known to be the oldest ritual in Church. It came into existence as early as 130 AD. The observation of lent began as a season of penance, driven by the example set by Lord Jesus Christ during his 40 days of fasting in the desert where he overcame the temptation from Satan. It soon became a period of instruction for new believers. Till 600 AD lent commenced on a Sunday but in AD 600 Gregory the Great (c.540-604) moved it to a Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday, to secure the exact number of 40 days in Lent—not counting Sundays, which were feast days. Gregory, who is regarded as the father of the medieval papacy, is also credited with the ceremony that gives the day its name. As Christians came to the church for forgiveness, Gregory marked their foreheads with ashes reminding them of the biblical symbol of repentance (sackcloth and ashes) and mortality: “You are dust, and to dust you will return” (Gen 3:19).
Tradition asks us to give up some thing for Lent. It is a time of self denial. We are expected to deny some thing that we like.
Tradition is discarded in modern times. The opposition to Lent as a ritual stated as early as 16th centaury, when the Anabaptists opposed observing this, and many other rituals and festivals, claiming that these were the handy work of Romans, and hence Christians should not observe those rituals and festivals.
Currently also there are differing views about observing Lent.
I have a question, in opposing the ritualistic observation of Lent, are we throwing the baby out along with the bath water?
What was lent supposed to remind us of? What does lent remind us of?
Like all Christian holy days and holidays, it has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter.
First fruits and Tithes
1. When you have entered the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance and have taken possession of it and settled in it, 2. take some of the firstfruits of all that you produce from the soil of the land the LORD your God is giving you and put them in a basket. Then go to the place the LORD your God will choose as a dwelling for his Name 3 and say to the priest in office at the time, “I declare today to the LORD your God that I have come to the land the LORD swore to our forefathers to give us.” 4 The priest shall take the basket from your hands and set it down in front of the altar of the LORD your God. 5 Then you shall declare before the LORD your God: “My father was a wandering Aramean, and he went down into Egypt with a few people and lived there and became a great nation, powerful and numerous. 6 But the Egyptians mistreated us and made us suffer, putting us to hard labor. 7 Then we cried out to the LORD, the God of our fathers, and the LORD heard our voice and saw our misery, toil and oppression. 8 So the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, with great terror and with miraculous signs and wonders. 9 He brought us to this place and gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey; 10 and now I bring the firstfruits of the soil that you, O LORD, have given me.” Place the basket before the LORD your God and bow down before him. 11 And you and the Levites and the aliens among you shall rejoice in all the good things the LORD your God has given to you and your household.
Our reading from Deuteronomy show us what Moses asked the people to do before they marched off to the promised land.
To me Lent is our period of preparation before we march into our promised land in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Lent is about submitting to God’s will — all of it — and following God’s direction wherever it is headed even when you can see a cross at the end of the path.
The curse of being blessed with bounty is that you can easily become more focused on the blessings and too easily forget the One who imparted the blessings.
When the one forgotten is God, the words of the Lord at the end of Mose’s ministry ring with warning. Don’t forget who brought you to this point. So Moses reminded them of his and their personal history. “My father was a wandering Aramean….”
We need to be examine ourselves and be able to accept our unworthiness for receiving God’s grace.
Is there anything we need to give up before we take up our cross and follow him all the way to paradise?
Lent is a time not just to give up what distracts us from God or the Gospel. It is also a time to get up and follow him. To see Jesus do his work for forty days is to see God’s plan of redemption fulfilled.
Lent is God’s way of preparing us for the promised land. The promise of salvation belongs to all people who repent and believe the Gospel.
Let us not be tempted to think there is another way back to God beyond repentance and faith in the Gospel? Let us not even begin to think that in this modern world There is nothing Satan can do to tempt us way from the promised land.. actually in the modern times the temptations are much more…
Life with out genuine repentance becomes a thin hollow shell that is easily penetrated.
What does the Bible tell us to do?
1. Practice 40 days of self-denial.
The Christian faith is supposed to be about imitating Jesus who said some radical things.
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”
Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.
We tend to want to imitate Jesus in ways that appeal to us; we pick and choose the parts of his life we will emulate based on our own sense of what is really important. This might range from the ridiculous (like Jesus Loved fish and hence I love to eat fish or Jesus took time to rest, and hence I need time to rest) to the serious (like giving to the poor, or showing compassion). It is not that there is anything wrong with such behaviour, but we need to examine if we are stopping that imitation at this juncture, and not taking it to areas which are uncomfortable to us.
Jesus did fast and pray throughout his ministry. He did deny himself, He did sacrifice all.
Would we be willing to go beyond the comfortable level of self sacrifice we normally observe in order to more closely imitate Jesus; in order to prepare our heart for Easter? Does the thought of “taking up the cross daily” make us uncomfortable?
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,
2. Practice 40 days of self-examination.
It is highly likely that our time of self denial will result in some extra time on our hands. If we give up shopping, preparing elaborate meals, video games, television, web surfing or any number of other indulgences you will likely discover just how much time you waste.
Would we be willing to spend some of that time in self examination?
2 Corinthians 13:5
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
We need to spend time with God examining what manner of person we are! You need times of brutal honesty; you need to take stock of your true spirituality. You need to stop kidding yourself and take a look at how much you are really contributing, to your marriage, to your children, to the Body, and to the community.
As a leadership trainer I always look forward to the feedbacks I get after the training sessions. And I feel good when I get good feedback. The question I need to ask myself is ,do I seek the same after the sessions I do for my ministry? Is it right? Is the feedback my motivation for running such sessions for my ministry?
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.
David Mac-Cleland. The Psychologist who coined the term competency, uses the Ice berg principle to explain the term competency, According to him, Competency is much beyond skills and knowledge. Skills and knowledge is only the tip of the Ice Berg. Competency is a complex function of Skills &Knowledge, Social Image, Values, Self Image, Traits and most importantly the Motive of a human being. Competencies measured through behaviour.. The behaviour we exhibit is a function of many such factors.
Similar is the case with Christianity. No doubt, others look at out behaviour to see what is different in us. They measure our Christianity by the way we behave. But Christianity is about more than outward behavior, it is about the condition of the heart. It is about the Christian Identity that each one of possess.
We need to prepare our hearts for Easter by setting aside this time for self examination and then where necessary, repentance and change.
May the Risen Lord be with you all even as we re dedicate our selves to His work.