Preparing for Lent
What Is Lent?
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The pastor speaks these words as he marks your forehead with a cross of black ashes. Lent is a time to reflect deeply on the nature of sin and the reality of death, but most importantly Lent is a time to reflect deeply on the cross. Ash Wednesday (March 6, 2019) marks the beginning of the forty-day season of Lent, a journey that culminates in three holy days: Maundy-Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter. Lent is a call to repentance, an invitation to reorder your life, and a time to focus on the events that led to the crucifixion and resurrection of our Lord. Above all, Lent is a time to meditate on the great cost that your Lord has paid for you and for your salvation.
Preparing For Lent
Let’s start at the very ... end. This year, give yourself and your family the gift of the Triduum (the three holy days). Take out your household calendar and mark the dates for Maundy-Thursday (April 18), Good Friday (April 19), and Easter (April 21). Mark these days as “church days” and make plans for you and your family to attend services. To the extent possible, prepare for these days in advance: take time off from work, get tasks and chores done ahead of time, consider taking the Monday (April 22) after Easter off from work as well. You’ll want some time to recover! Once you’ve finished your preparations for the Triduum, make plans to attend the midweek Lenten services at 7pm on Wednesday evenings: March 6, 13, 20, and 27, as well as April 3 and 10. Mark your calendar. These six services are the heart of the Lenten season. Pastors often preach a special sermon series and the services are intentionally kept shorter (usually forty-five minutes or so) for the sake of families with children. Gathering together as a Family to hear our Father’s word is the most essential part of Lent.
The Lenten Journey
Lent is a journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Though we journey together, your mileage will vary. Some will journey through Lent without much thought, without much effort, with little risked and little gained. Others will embrace the journey, challenge themselves, and in the end find themselves renewed and changed. Decide ahead of time how you would like your journey to go. Take the time to prepare and plan. There is no better opportunity to re-order your life, make a new start, or deepen the good habits you’ve already begun.
The Christian Disciplines
ALMSGIVING Jesus said: “When you do your charitable deeds ...” (Matthew 6:1-4). Lent is an opportunity to assess (and perhaps reevaluate) how you give of your time, your money, and your labor. Do you support the church as you should, so that the Gospel may continue to be preached to you and your family? What opportunities for charity have you encountered recently? Jesus gives us some ideas Himself (Matthew 25:31-46). The opportunities are almost limitless! So here’s the real challenge: pick one or two and use Lent as your opportunity to get started.
PRAYER Jesus said: “When you pray ...” (Matthew 6:5-13). Make time to speak with your heavenly Father. Actually schedule it. Write down a specific time. Have in mind a specific place. Commit to 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes in the evening. When you speak to God, speak out loud. Begin by praying the Ten Commandments, the Apostle’s Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer. As an added bonus: by the time Lent is over you’ll have these memorized. After praying God’s word, simply speak back to Him. Confess if you need to confess; ask for forgiveness, grace, and wisdom; pray for others, name names, identify needs. He tenderly invites you to speak with Him as a dear child to a dear Father.
FASTING Jesus said: “When you fast ...” (Matthew 6:16-18). This Lent, some will choose to “fast” by not using Facebook, or TV, or some other enjoyable activity, in order that they might have more time to read Scripture and pray. For the most part, however, fasting has to do with food. New to fasting? Consider cutting out snacks or sugar. Use the confrontations with your mouth and stomach to lead you to prayer and reflection. The practice of fasting has much to teach us about the habits of our flesh: thoughtless consumption, taking abundance for granted, not giving thanks to God. Ultimately, fasting draws us into Jesus’ own experience in the desert, and into His words of truth: “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).
Lent for Kids
Kids should certainly be included in Lenten services, devotions, and other activities your family has chosen. Encourage your young ones to color a Lenten Calendar (all at once, or day-by-day) and hang it up in a prominent place. Kids can even match the liturgical colors: the days should all be colored purple except for: Palm Sunday which should be red; Good Friday which should be grey/black; and Easter Sunday which should be white.
What Is Confession & Absolution?
If you have yet to experience the great blessing of Individual Confession & Absolution, then you really don’t know what you’re missing! Lent is your opportunity to find out. Perhaps you have gone to Confession & Absolution before, but it has been a while. Lent is your opportunity to renew. Confession & Absolution is one of the most practical and profound gifts that God gives to us (John 20:22-23). If you are nervous, or have questions about Confession & Absolution, your pastors stand ready to assist you and encourage you with God’s word.
LENT IS A PENITENTIAL SEASON, a season where we address the sin in our lives. There is no better way to address sin head-on than through Confession & Absolution. Dr. Luther writes: “Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer; but before the pastor we should confess only those sins which we know and feel in our hearts” (Luther’s Small Catechism). The devil loves nothing more than to keep you isolated in sin and guilt. Take the opportunity this Lent to go to Confession & Absolution.
WHAT IS CONFESSION? “Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness ...” (Luther’s Small Catechism). God’s word of forgiveness, spoken through the pastor’s lips, is a powerful word. This word creates in us a clean heart and renews a right spirit within us.
CONSIDER THE TEN COMMANDMENTS. 1. You shall have no other gods. What things have you loved more than God? 2. You shall not misuse God’s name. How have you failed to live up to the name He placed on you at Baptism? 3. Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. What has gotten in the way of church, and what place does God take in your schedule? 4. Honor your father and mother. Have you honored and respected the government leaders, your boss, and the other authorities God has put in your life? 5. You shall not murder. Have you spoken ill of anyone or murdered with your tongue? 6. You shall not commit adultery. In what ways have you failed to lead a sexually pure and decent life in thought, word, and deed? 7. You shall not steal. Have you cheated anyone or taken advantage of anyone? 8. You shall not bear false witness. What lies or half-truths have you caught yourself telling? 9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. Have you found yourself being jealous of others, wishing you had more? 10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, workers, or possessions. How have you failed to keep this commandment perfectly? NOW GO TO CONFESSION AND RECEIVE ABSOLUTION!
Looking Forward to Holy Week
PALM SUNDAY “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” On this holy day we reflect on Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem. As He came to Jerusalem, Jesus wept, for the people did not know what would make for their peace (Luke 19:42). They didn’t know what our Lord knew: that He was going to make peace for us with God by dying on the cross. This year Palm Sunday is on April 14th. Faith Lutheran also celebrates the rite of Confirmation on this Sunday.
MAUNDY-THURSDAY / HOLY THURSDAY is a Communion service observed on Thursday, April 18. “Maundy” is derived from the Latin word “mandatum,” meaning “commandment.” On the night when Jesus was betrayed, He said “this do” as He gave us the New Passover, a sacramental meal for the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus also said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Jesus gives Himself to us, so that we might give ourselves to others. At the end of the Maundy-Thursday service, Psalm 22 is sung as the Altar is stripped for Good Friday.
GOOD FRIDAY “It is finished.” On this holy day we observe the death of Christ, our Savior. He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). This service is held on Friday, April 19th. It is the service of Tenebrae, which means “darkness” and the sanctuary lights are dimmed. It is a somber service, and yet, we realize it is Christ’s death that works for our greatest good. The Passion narrative is read aloud as we meditate on the incredible love that drove Christ to suffer in our place.
EASTER VIGIL The Easter Vigil at Faith Lutheran is held before sunrise (this year at 5am) on Easter Sunday, April 21st. This service includes many readings from the Old Testament Scriptures that are fulfilled in the death and resurrection of Jesus. This service also draws the journey of Lent to a close with a renewal of Baptismal vows and Holy Communion. Many attend the Easter Vigil at 5 am, grab Easter Breakfast served at Faith, then attend the 7 am Easter Service.
EASTER SERVICES are held on April 21st at 7 am and 10 am. Easter is the high point of the church year and the apex of our lives as Christians. We rejoice in our Lord who is risen from the dead. He has defeated sin, death, and the devil! He lives and the victory is won, but it is not just His victory: He gives the victory to us! On this great day we celebrate our Lord, who promises to be with us “until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). He lives, and therefore He truly is “the Pastor and Bishop” of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
Back to the Font ... Christianity’s earliest observances of Lent included a focus on the catechumens (new Christians) who were preparing to be Baptized at the Easter Vigil. Their journey to the Baptismal Font became an opportunity for all Christians to refocus on their own Baptisms and return to the basics of the faith. Lent provides an opportunity for you to consider your own spiritual life and find renewal. Here are some suggestions that will take you back to the Font and back to the basics. You won’t likely be able to embrace them all, so just pick one or two for this Lenten season.
1. SIGNS OF LIFE Luther writes: “In the morning when you get up, make the sign of the holy cross and say: ‘In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen’” (Luther’s Small Catechism). This Lent, begin each day making the sign of the cross in remembrance of your Baptism (Matthew 28:19; Galatians 3:27). Every day you wake and rise as a Baptized and forgiven child of God.
2. SHARE THE GOSPEL You are a Christian because someone brought you to church. Return the favor. Perhaps it was your parents, another family member, or a friend that brought you to hear the Gospel. Commit to inviting at least one person each week of Lent to come to church. “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).
3. TAKE A CLASS Perhaps you feel stagnant in your spiritual life, you long to delve into the Scriptures, or maybe you have questions. Did you know that Faith Lutheran offers at least 5 classes every single week? Did you know that the pastors are also open to beginning new classes any time there’s a group that’s interested? Step out and get connected. The classes at Faith are not only a good place to learn, they’re a great place to get to know others as well.
4. TEST YOUR MEMORY Luther insists that every Christian ought to have the Ten Commandments, the Apostles Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Words of Institution memorized. How do you measure up? Take this Lent as an opportunity to blow the dust of your Small Catechism and re-memorize these most basic Biblical texts. Even better: include your kids and memorize as a family!
Lenten & Easter Schedule 2019
Ash Wednesday - Wednesday, March 6th at 7 pm
Lenten Vespers I - Wednesday, March 13th at 7 pm
Lenten Vespers II - Wednesday, March 20th at 7 pm
Lenten Vespers III - Wednesday, March 27th at 7 pm
Lenten Vespers IV - Wednesday, April 3rd at 7 pm
Lenten Vespers V - Wednesday, April 10th at 7 pm
Palm Sunday / Confirmation Sunday - Sunday, April 14th at 8 am & 10:30 am (Confirmands)
Maundy-Thursday - Thursday, April 18th at 12 pm & 7 pm
Good Friday - Friday, April 19th at 12 pm & 7 pm
Easter Services - Sunday, April 21st at 5 am (vigil on patio), 7 am & 10 am