Lent Topical Study

<p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Worship Ideas for Lent</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">The practice of a forty-day preparation period began in the Christian church during the third and fourth centuries. The number forty carries biblical significance based on the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness and Jesus&#39; forty-day fast in the wilderness. The forty days of Lent begin on Ash Wednesday and continue into Holy Week. Many Catholics and Protestants fast in Lent, at least to some extent, or give up something else they are fond of. The idea is to imitate Jesus&#39; fast in the wilderness, to express remorse for sin, to discipline one&#39;s life, to save something extra for the poor, and, not least, to sharpen the appetite for Easter feasting.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Roman Catholic and some Protestant congregations mark the beginning of Lent on Ash Wednesday by imposing the sign of the cross in ash on the brows of believers. (The ash is often created by burning the dried palm branches from the previous year&#39;s Palm Sunday celebration.) As a period of preparation, Lent has historically included the instruction of persons for profession of faith and baptism on Easter Sunday, the calling back of those who have become estranged from the church, and efforts by all Christians to mortify the sins that cling to them and to vivify or robustly encourage tendencies to lead a Christ-like life. Meditation on Christ&#39;s atoning death is entirely proper in Lent, but so is a hearty turn toward Resurrection Sunday. Lent&#39;s destination is Easter. Without it, we would be unwilling to suffer the death of our sinful old self. The only willing suffering is suffering in hope.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">The traditional color for the Lenten season is purple. Some congregations, especially Roman Catholic ones, choose to highlight the contrast between Lent and Eastertide (the period from Easter to Ascension Day, Pentecost, or Trinity Sunday) by omitting the singing of &quot;Alleluia&quot; during the Lenten season. Many Protestant congregations choose to observe Lent by centering Sunday worship on repentance. Others stress that all Sundays, even in Lent, are &quot;little Easters&quot; and thus may appropriately center not just on repentance, but also on praise.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy"><strong>When:</strong> forty days before Easter, not including Sundays, beginning on Ash Wednesday [hyperlink</span><br /><span class="body-copy"><strong>Liturgical Color:</strong> purple</span><br /><span class="body-copy"><strong>Associated objects/symbols: </strong>cross, ashes</span><br /><strong><span class="body-copy">Themes:</span></strong></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy">Repentance (See <a href="#Repentance">Repentance</a> and <a href="#PracticesofFastingandRepentance">Practices of Fasting and Repentance</a> and <a href="#PsalmsofRepentance">Psalms of Repentance</a>)</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Sacrifice</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Contemplation</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Prayer&nbsp;(See <a href="#PracticesofFastingandRepentance">Practices of Fasting and Repentance</a>)</span></li><li><span class="body-copy">Fasting (See <a href="#PracticesofFastingandRepentance">Practices of Fasting and Repentance</a>)</span></li></ul><p><span class="body-copy">See also <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/topic/Ash%20Wednesday">Ash Wednesday</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/topic/Palm%20Sunday">Palm or Passion Sunday</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/topic/Maundy%20Thursday">Maundy Thursday</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/topic/Good%20Friday">Good Friday</a>, <a href="https://preachingandworship.org/topic/Holy%20Saturday%20">Holy Saturday</a>&nbsp;</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Ideas for Lent from Scripture</span></strong></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="anchor" id="Repentance" name="Repentance">Repentance</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Reflection on how great our sins and miseries are sharpens our sense of the need for the grace of our Savior. Sorrow for sin, honest confession, and deliberate amendment of our sinful lives is the basic drama of everyday Christian life at the intersection of sin and grace. Lent is a time to get very thoughtful at that intersection, taking to heart our plight and God&#39;s mercy.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Chronicles%207%3A14%E2%80%9315">2 Chronicles 7:14&ndash;15</a>, healing for the land</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2050">Psalm 50</a>, acceptable sacrifice to God</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Isaiah%201">Isaiah 1</a>, the wickedness of Judah and the degenerate city</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Isaiah%2055%3A11">Isaiah 55:11</a>, Word that goes forth will be fulfilled</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Jeremiah%2014%3A7%E2%80%939">Jeremiah 14:7&ndash;9</a>, &ldquo;Do not forsake us!&rdquo;</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Daniel%209%3A1%E2%80%9319">Daniel 9:1&ndash;19</a>, we are covered with shame</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Joel%202%3A12%E2%80%9317">Joel 2:12&ndash;17</a>, a call to repentance and fasting</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Matthew%206%3A1%E2%80%936%2C%2016%E2%80%9321">Matthew 6:1&ndash;6, 16&ndash;21</a>, almsgiving, prayer, fasting, and treasures</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/John%203%3A14%E2%80%9321">John 3:14&ndash;21</a>, light in the darkness</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Luke%207%3A36%E2%80%9350">Luke 7:36&ndash;50</a>, Jesus is anointed</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Luke%2015%3A11%E2%80%9332">Luke 15:11&ndash;32</a>, the lost son and the generous father</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Acts%2026%3A15%E2%80%9318">Acts 26:15&ndash;18</a>, Paul sent to the Gentiles</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ephesians%202%3A1%E2%80%939">Ephesians 2:1&ndash;9</a>, God raised us up in Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Romans%206%3A1%E2%80%9314">Romans 6:1&ndash;14</a>, from death to life</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/1%20John%201%3A5%E2%80%9310">1 John 1:5&ndash;10</a>, forgiveness and fellowship</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Titus%203%3A1%E2%80%938">Titus 3:1&ndash;8</a>, saved to do good</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="anchor" id="PracticesofFastingandRepentance" name="PracticesofFastingandRepentance">Practices of Fasting and Repentance</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">The beginning of Lent often also marks the beginning of a time of fasting. During Lent many people answer the call to holiness and repentance by either abstaining from a harmful or distracting habit or committing to a spiritual practice to grow in faithfulness. Giving up a vice of some sort should be thought of not simply as a temporary practice, but as something that could or should continue beyond Lent&mdash;not as a public display of holiness, but as a move towards faithfulness.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Samuel%2012%3A1%E2%80%9323">2 Samuel 12:1&ndash;23</a>, David repents of his sin</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Job%2042%3A1%E2%80%936">Job 42:1&ndash;6</a>, Job repents</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Nehemiah%209">Nehemiah 9</a>, the people of Israel confess their sin</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Matthew%204%3A1%E2%80%9311">Matthew 4:1&ndash;11</a>, Jesus&rsquo; forty-day fast</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Matthew%206%3A16%E2%80%9318">Matthew 6:16&ndash;18</a>, Jesus encourages secret practices of repentanc</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm"><span class="anchor" id="PsalmsofRepentance" name="PsalmsofRepentance">Psalms of Repentance</span></span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Prayers of confession and repentance can be found throughout scripture. During Lent, we shift our posture to that of confession and repentance as a means of focusing on Christ&rsquo;s sacrifice on the cross to forgive our sins.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%206">Psalm 6</a>, Be gracious to me, O L<span class="small-caps">ord</span></span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2030">Psalm 30</a>, thanksgiving for divine redemption</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2038">Psalm 38</a>, sin is painful</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2050">Psalm 50</a>, call to confession</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%2051">Psalm 51</a>, Create in me a clean heart, O God</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%20106">Psalm 106</a>, God&rsquo;s historic forgiveness</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%20130">Psalm 130</a>, wait for the L<span class="small-caps">ord</span></span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Psalm%20143">Psalm 143</a>, Hear my prayer, O L<span class="small-caps">ord</span></span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Dying and Rising with Christ</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Lent is a season of preparation and repentance during which we ponder our mortality and sinfulness and thus our need to die and rise with Jesus Christ&mdash;not only in once-for-all baptism, but in the daily mortification of our old self and vivification of our new self. Through deliberate forms of self-denial, Christians in Lent open their hearts to the self-giving grace of Jesus Christ and their own union with Christ.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">The word &ldquo;Lent&rdquo; comes from an Old English word that has to do with spring and the fact that in the northern hemisphere days in spring lengthen. Put together the dust representing human mortality and the water needed for baptism on Easter Sunday and what you get in Lent is mud season. Reflection on our mortality in Lent is a salutary spiritual exercise. If you walk through a cemetery and reflect on the fact that six feet under lie a number of well-dressed skeletons, and that one&#39;s own chances of joining them one day are high, a lot of other things in life get cast in a new light.</span></p><ul><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Genesis%203">Genesis 3</a>, the fall into sin</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ecclesiastes%203%3A18%E2%80%9320">Ecclesiastes 3:18&ndash;20</a>, dust to dust</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Romans%206%3A1%E2%80%9314">Romans 6:1&ndash;14</a>, we are united with Christ in baptism</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Romans%208%3A1%E2%80%9317">Romans 8:1&ndash;17</a>, life through the Spirit</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Corinthians%201%3A21%E2%80%9322">2 Corinthians 1:21&ndash;22</a>, Christ anoints us</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Corinthians%204%3A1%E2%80%9316">2 Corinthians 4:1&ndash;16</a>, present weakness and resurrection life</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/2%20Corinthians%204%3A1%E2%80%9316">2 Corinthians 5:16&ndash;6:2</a>, the ministry of reconciliation</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Galatians%202%3A19%E2%80%9321">Galatians 2:19&ndash;21</a>, we have been crucified with Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Galatians%203%3A27%E2%80%9329">Galatians 3:27&ndash;29</a>, we are clothed with Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ephesians%201%3A3%E2%80%9314">Ephesians 1:3&ndash;14</a>, every spiritual blessing in Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ephesians%202%3A1%E2%80%9320">Ephesians 2:1&ndash;20</a>, made alive and reconciled through Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Ephesians%204%3A1%E2%80%936">Ephesians 4:1&ndash;6</a>, unity and maturity in the body of Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Colossians%201%3A9%E2%80%9315">Colossians 1:9&ndash;15</a>, buried with Christ, raised with Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Colossians%202%3A9%E2%80%933%3A7">Colossians 2:9&ndash;3:7</a>, circumcision of the heart, forgiveness of sin, dead to self, alive in Christ</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/1%20John%205%3A1%E2%80%9312">1 John 5:1&ndash;12</a>, eternal life in God&rsquo;s Son</span></li><li><span class="body-copy"><a href="https://preachingandworship.org/search/Titus%203%3A4%E2%80%938">Titus 3:4&ndash;8</a>, we are saved by grace and called to good works</span></li></ul><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Reflections on Lent</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">Just as Jesus prepared for his ministry with forty days in the desert, so too early followers of The Way entered a forty-day season of preparation in advance of initiation into the Christian community and their first joyful participation in the Eucharist. This pattern of preparation for baptism was established and documented by the fourth century. Its purpose expands to include all Christians in a season of active remembrance of baptism, calling people to abandon everything that detracts from their primary loyalty: an allegiance claiming them for Christ in baptism.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-lg">Affirmations of Faith for Lent</span></strong></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Belgic Confession, Article 21</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">We believe<br />that Jesus Christ is a high priest forever<br />according to the order of Melchizedek&mdash;<br />made such by an oath&mdash;<br />and that he presented himself<br />in our name before his Father,<br />to appease his Father&rsquo;s wrath<br />with full satisfaction<br />by offering himself<br />on the tree of the cross<br />and pouring out his precious blood<br />for the cleansing of our sins,<br />as the prophets had predicted.<br />For it is written<br />that &ldquo;the punishment that made us whole&rdquo;<br />was placed on the Son of God<br />and that &ldquo;by his bruises we are healed.&rdquo;<br />He was &ldquo;like a lamb that is led to the slaughter&rdquo;;<br />he was &ldquo;numbered with the transgressors&rdquo;<br />and condemned as a criminal by Pontius Pilate,<br />though Pilate had declared<br />that he was innocent.<br />So he paid back<br />what he had not stolen,<br />and he suffered&mdash;<br />&ldquo;the righteous for the unrighteous,&rdquo;<br />in both his body and his soul&mdash;<br />in such a way that<br />when he sensed the horrible punishment required by our sins<br />&ldquo;his sweat became like great drops of blood<br />falling down on the ground.&rdquo;<br />He cried, &ldquo;My God, my God,<br />why have you forsaken me?&rdquo;<br />And he endured all this<br />for the forgiveness of our sins.<br />Therefore we rightly say with Paul that<br />we know nothing &ldquo;except Jesus Christ, and him crucified&rdquo;;<br />we &ldquo;regard everything as loss<br />because of the surpassing value<br />of knowing Christ Jesus [our] Lord.&rdquo;<br />We find all comforts in his wounds<br />and have no need to seek or invent any other means<br />to reconcile ourselves with God<br />than this one and only sacrifice,<br />once made,<br />which renders believers perfect forever.<br />This is also why the angel of God called him Jesus&mdash;<br />that is, &ldquo;Savior&rdquo;&mdash;<br />because he would save his people<br />from their sins.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Heidelberg Catechism Q&amp;A 37&ndash;39</span></strong></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">What do you understand by the word &ldquo;suffered&rdquo;?</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">That during his whole life on earth, but especially at the end, Christ sustained in body and soul the anger of God against the sin of the whole human race. This he did in order that, by his suffering as the only atoning sacrifice, he might set us free, body and soul, from eternal condemnation, and gain for us God&rsquo;s grace, righteousness, and eternal life.</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">Why did he suffer &ldquo;under Pontius Pilate&rdquo; as judge?</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">So that he, though innocent, might be condemned by a civil judge, and so free us from the severe judgment of God that was to fall on us.</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">Is it significant that he was &ldquo;crucified&rdquo; instead of dying some other way?</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">Yes. This death convinces me that he shouldered the curse which lay on me, since death by crucifixion was accursed by God.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Canons of Dort, Part II, Articles 2&ndash;5, 8</span></strong></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">The Satisfaction Made by Christ</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">Since, however, we ourselves cannot give this satisfaction or deliver ourselves from God&rsquo;s wrath, God in boundless mercy has given us as a guarantee his only begotten Son, who was made to be sin and a curse for us, in our place, on the cross, in order that he might give satisfaction for us.</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">The Infinite Value of Christ&rsquo;s Death</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">This death of God&rsquo;s Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">Reasons for this Infinite Value</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is&mdash;as was necessary to be our Savior&mdash;not only a true and perfectly holy human, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God&rsquo;s wrath and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.</span></p><p><em><span class="body-copy">The Saving Effectiveness of Christ&rsquo;s Death</span></em><br /><span class="body-copy">For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son&rsquo;s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God&rsquo;s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit&rsquo;s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God&rsquo;s will that Christ should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Westminster Confession, Chapter VIII, Section 4</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake; which that he may discharge, he was made under the law, and did perfectly fulfil it; endured most grievous torments immediately in his soul, and most painful sufferings in his body; was crucified, and died; was buried, and remained under the power of death, yet saw no corruption. On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered; with which also he ascended into heaven, and there sitteth at the right hand of his Father, making intercession; and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.</span></p><p><strong><span class="heading-sm">Our World Belongs to God, stanzas 24&ndash;26</span></strong></p><p><span class="body-copy">God remembered his promise<br />to reconcile the world to himself;<br />he has come among us in Jesus Christ,<br />the eternal Word made flesh.<br />He is the long-awaited Savior,<br />fully human and fully divine,<br />conceived by the Spirit of God<br />and born of the virgin Mary.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">In the events of his earthly life&mdash;<br />his temptations and suffering,<br />his teaching and miracles,<br />his battles with demons and talks with sinners&mdash;<br />Jesus made present in deed<br />and in word the coming rule of God.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">As the second Adam<br />he chose the path we had rejected.<br />As our representative,<br />serving God perfectly,<br />and loving even those who scorned him,<br />Christ showed us how<br />a righteous child of God lives.</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">---</span></p><p><span class="body-copy">Introduction from </span><span class="body-copy-sm"><em>The Worship Sourcebook</em>, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Faith Alive Christian Resources, 2013], 557.</span></p>