Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Preparing for Lent

AshWed.jpgSome (low church) folks roll their eyes when they see that word “Lent” in the title of this post, and other (often high church) folks said, “Ah, yes, something for all of us.” The Church calendar is designed to embody the gospel itself on an annual basis: we begin the birth of the Messiah and then through a season called Epiphany and then we move into Lent and Holy Week with focus on Good Friday and Easter, and then we head for Pentecost and the rest of the year is called Ordinary Time. Ordinary Time is designed to focus on various elements of the Christian faith and mission.


How do you prepare for Lent? Or how will you prepare for Lent? Or, from another angle, why do you not prepare for Lent?

Well, some will say, the NT doesn’t teach a church calendar and so there’s no need for it. To which I (really not “I” but the Church) say, “Hold on, dear friend.” God so ordained Israel’s life so that it would re-live and embody the great saving events in God’s relationship with Israel. So, let’s begin right there: God evidently really does care to institutionalize saving events into a calendrical form. The Christians, from very, very early, wisely restructured the calendar to be shaped by the saving events in the life of Jesus. (And I don’t say this to snub my messianic friends who are Jewish. I see no reason why we can’t combine the Christian calendar with Israel’s calendar.)


Now, on to two books I can recommend to you for this year’s calendar, and one of them is mine and I do because I’m keen on getting the message out. Fasting is one of the misunderstood disciplines, and it is of some concern to me (at least) that it may not best be seen as a spiritual discipline. In my book called Fasting: The Ancient Practices , here at a Bargain Price, I urge us to move away from seeing fasting as something done in order to get something, and learn to see it as a response to some grievous or sacred moment/event. (I use a letter system.)
A (grievous moment, liked death) –> B (act of fasting) –> C (benefit)
I hear too many suggestion we should fast (B) in order to get (C). I suggest in my book that the biblical pattern is much more A (grievous, sacred moment) triggering the natural response of fasting (B), whether we get C or not. Furthermore, fasting is an act whereby we enter into the pathos of God regarding that grievous moment. Anyway, I hope the book can be of use to you this Lent.
And there’s a brand new book that takes us into Lent through lectio divina. Stephen Binz, in Conversing with God in Lent: Praying the Sunday Mass Readings with Lectio Divina
, offers us a lectio reading of the Church’s Lenten Sunday lectionary readings in all three cycles (A, B, and C). Binz is a Roman Catholic biblical scholar who cares to communicate the Word of God to ordinary folks through the lectio approach to Scripture reading. (He explains what lectio is in clear terms.) Thus:
Lectio, meditatio, oratio (prayer), contemplatio and operatio.
A very good book, especially for pastors pondering Lenten season sermons.
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posted January 27, 2010 at 6:32 am

Is it that time again already? Thanks for the reminder.

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Georges Boujakly

posted January 27, 2010 at 7:08 am

Thanks Scot for the reminder.
I have ordered the second book and look forward to it. I already have yours and studied it carefully. I have discovered that your understanding of biblical fasting true to a middle eastern mindset. Entering into the sorrow (I like pathos too) of God, and others is the key to fasting for me. If is not engaged primarily with that in mind it can easily become self-serving.

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Dave Zimmerman

posted January 27, 2010 at 10:26 am

Seems to me that Lent is itself a time of preparation, so the notion of preparing for it seems to distract us from observing ordinary time. The idea of a church calendar, as I understand it (granted, I have a woefully uneducated view of this), is to aid the church in observing the time it currently occupies. We ought not be looking down the road (except when, in the wisdom of the church, looking forward is called for, as in Advent and, more immediately, in Lent) but being fully present to where and when we are.
But maybe I’m just quibbling.

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posted January 27, 2010 at 11:31 am

in the past i would pray about three things: 1) what I would be constantly praying about during lent, 2) what my act of fasting would entail (i.e., food, a vice, etc), and 3) to whom would i contribute time or money during lent.
this year my wife and i will be praying about these things to figure out, together, how we can best use the season lent for the glory of god.
it is one of two times a year that i find it spiritually renewing to fast (also tisha b’av).
i think the reformation really missed out on dropping the liturgical calendar and practices…but i am partial to high church practices such as liturgy, celebrating feast days, and spiritual practices.

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posted January 27, 2010 at 11:59 am

last year the leadership of our church (including several members who are pastors but not ordained in our church) all contributed their writings to a Lenten devotional and I thought that it was an amazing way for our church to observe Lent. also last year, with Lent, our banner guild hung our first large litugical banner in the sanctuary. (picture on request). I think the practices of the litugical calendar are becoming more known in our local church.
this year I just purchased: “Devotions for Lent–from the Mosaic Bible”. My only comment so far is that the print is very very small :).

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posted January 27, 2010 at 12:57 pm

what’s disconcerting to me is the fact that we have anyone “rolling their eyes” at Lent, weekly eucharist, etc.
it’s cool if people don’t want to observe Lent or follow the weekly practice, but the hostility in any degree is frankly immature, uncharitable, and silly.
just say’n…

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posted January 27, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Now you know why, if I ever write a book, I want Dave Zimmerman to edit it. : )

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Mike M

posted January 27, 2010 at 10:21 pm

For what it’s worth: art@4: 2 of those 3 practices are not “high church.” I am extremely low church and yet I practice spiritual practices and celebrate some feast days.
I too would like to combine some Christian holidays with Jewish Sabbath days such as Passover (at least a Passover meal) with “Easter”, and also Sukkoth which has been assumed by some to be when Jesus was really born. And it still offends me that Jesus’ birth is celebrated on a pagan holiday. Let’s take “Christ OUT of Christmas.” Even the Pilgrims didn’t celebrate Christmas.
And finally nathan@6: of course there is some hostility and derision when observances such as Lent are mentioned. Don’t forget where it came from. As Protestants we should still be sensitive to its RC roots. Remember it was (and possibly is) a sin NOT to fast during Lent; NOT to give something up; NOT to go to mass on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and Easter; and a sin to eat red meat. That?s the attitude that is truly violent.

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Ian Eastman

posted January 28, 2010 at 8:36 am

My friends and I were a little late for Lent last year, but we blogged/Facebooked through your book, 40 Days Living the Jesus Creed. It was a good experience especially considering that the group was so geographically spread apart (4 states). I’d suggest the idea to any group of friends looking for a great discussion starter during Lent.

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posted January 28, 2010 at 11:38 am

@ Mike M.
Do you know of any protestant tradition that observes Lent that asserts the position you describe?
Why does a whole practice, that is the first formal calendrical practice of the organizing early church, have to be tossed out because of some dogmatic accretion of a tradition to which you don’t even subscribe?
Eye rolling is derision. It is not meekness or gentleness. Disagreement between Christians does not require it.
Clarity and commitment to the Truth does not require it.
The need to invoke “violence” is offering a rebuttal to an argument i didn’t make.
Your argument against the practice does not justify, and can probably never justify, why such a spirit is necessary or consistent with the Scriptural descriptions of the demeanor of a Christ-centered people.
It’s not sin to not observe Lent.
But it is sin to be derisive, dismissive, and unkind.

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posted January 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

Lent was probably formally established in the 5th century.
In the grand sweep of Church history, this is not a “Roman” practice so much as it is a Christian one.
Regardless of what accretions in middle church thought make it problematic for you, i just don’t see why the whole thing should be offloaded.
Would to God more churches embraced the opportunity for intentional prayer, repentance and fasting together. Any reason to do so sounds like a plus for me.
If we were given to more prayer, repentance and fasting we might help shape a frame of mind that reflects the poverty of spirit, meekness and tenderness toward each other, rather than rolling our eyes.

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