I spent several decades in non-denominational evangelical spaces where we didn’t really observe things like Lent. We talked very little about historical Christianity outside of the New Testament and almost nothing about the Christians and their practices that came before us. When I started attending United Methodist churches and heard talk of the church seasons, I was a bit confused. But learning about and connecting to the history of our faith has brought amazing depth and beauty to my spiritual journey and to my understanding of myself and my place in the body of Christ.
Almost everyone I’ve talked to at Two Rivers has cited the sense of community and belonging as one of the major reasons they attend the church. Participating in the church traditions is a way for us to find that same connection and belonging in the larger, universal Church. We are part of something so much bigger than ourselves; our faith is rich and connected to something that has gone on for thousands of years. Understanding the cycle of the church year connects us to Christians around the world and throughout time.
The church year is also called the liturgical year or liturgical calendar. Christians mark time through the lens of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. The church year doesn’t begin on New Year’s Day but begins with Advent, the four weeks leading up to Christmas. This video gives an overview of the church year:
Within the church year, Lent is 40-day season leading up to Easter. What’s Easter? This is the big celebration for Christians, the most important day of the Christian year, the day that Jesus rose from the dead, changing everything. But before we get to the joyful, worshipful party of Easter, we spend 40 days preparing our hearts through prayer and fasting during the season of Lent. We turn away from temptation and from sin, and we turn toward God. We think about our mortality and our sinfulness. Sounds fun, right? (I’m an Enneagram 4, so I kind of live for this season.)
Here’s a quick and helpful video explaining the basics of Lent:
Want to learn more?
- My number one recommendation is to read one of the Gospels during Lent. The Gospels are what we call the “books” of the Bible that tell the story of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. My favorite is the Gospel of John, and it’s usually the one I recommend to people who are new to this whole Jesus thing.
- In addition, there are TONS of Lent studies and devotionals you can find on Amazon and the Google. Our very own Lyndsey Medford is writing about Feminist Lent, which you can learn more about here: http://www.lyndseymedford.com/feminist-lent/
- This website has good ideas for celebrating Lent with children: http://sacraparental.com/2016/01/08/lent-with-kids-how-to-create-a-household-lent-plan/
- Elizabeth has prepared “Lent in a Bag” for our families this year, which you can find on Sunday. Plus, she’s an AMAZING resource regarding the church year and the traditions of the church.
- Sarah Bessey wrote up a list of 40 practices for Lent that I appreciate: https://sarahbessey.substack.com/p/40-simple-practices-for-lent
Okay, now it’s your turn! What is Lent for you? How are you observing it? Can you recommend any good resources?