We began the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday, and will begin to follow that season in Sunday worship on March 1. Lent is one of the holiest seasons of the year. This year we will be focusing on some of the stories of Jesus, learning about the people in those stories, and understanding how those stories relate to us today. There will also be an opportunity to further study those biblical texts on Wednesday afternoons.
Lent is a season of forty days, not counting Sundays, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Saturday. The English word “Lent” comes from the Anglo–Saxon word lencten, which means “lengthen” and refers to the lengthening days of “spring.” In many other languages, the word used for this season refers to the 40-day length of the season (cuaresma in Spanish and Tagalog, carême in French, quaresima in Italian) or to the fasting that characterizes it (Fastenzeit in German, fastan in Swedish, paasto in Finnish, posta in Russian). The season is a preparation for celebrating Easter.
Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. The First Sunday describes Jesus’ temptation by Satan; and the Sixth Sunday (Passion/Palm Sunday), Christ’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent passion and death. Note that the readings during Lent, until Passion/Palm Sunday, focus primarily on the meaning of baptism and discipleship, in continuity with the season’s original purpose. Because Sundays are always little Easters, the penitential spirit of Lent should be tempered with joyful expectation of the Resurrection.
Preparing for Easter is an important part of our Christian journey. It is important to understand the teachings of Jesus before we shout Alleluia. What is the importance not just of the Resurrection, but what is the importance of the life of the One whom we follow? We cannot fully celebrate Jesus’s rising from the dead, without being able to apply his teachings to our lives today. That is one of the important parts of our Lenten journey. I hope you will join me as together we prepare for that glorious day in April.