Lent
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By In Scribblings, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Herbertian Lessons for Lent

Guest post from Brian G Daigle, Headmaster of Sequitur Classical Academy

I live in an area where Mardi Gras is in full swing, and I can remember from my upbringing that Fat Tuesday was a last ditch effort at debauchery before the pseudo-spiritual practice of “giving something up for Lent” really began. In my youth I would give up some kind of chocolate or candy, something that appeared to be a fast, and I would join others around me in sharing with friends and family what I’ve given up and why. Around day thirty it would turn into some kind of joke about how long I’ve been able to go without this first-world luxury. My aristocratic sacrifice was hardly creating in me a clean heart. Those imaginings still haunt me and each year I must consider anew why this kind of extended fast ought to be recognized. (more…)

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By In Family and Children, Wisdom, Worship

Some Thoughts on Lent & Fasting

Every year around this time the internet is flooded with essays and interviews concerning Lent: Should we observe it? If we observe it, how should we observe it? And so on. Good folks disagree about these issues. But it is a good discussion to be having. I thought I’d chime in on the issue. Hopefully, I can help keep people thinking through the issue.

First, let me clear some ground here. I agree with many of my brothers who despise some of the Lenten practices. There are people who have superstitious views of the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday, for instance. Here in Louisville, KY, we even had one church who set up shop in a local business so that you can get your ashes to go. This was a one-stop shop for groceries and a dose of humility and repentance. People who do this sort of thing are, in most cases, viewing the imposition of ashes as some type of talisman that is going to keep God off their backs for a little while longer. I have witnessed people through the years from many branches of the Christian church act as if the religious ritual itself (whether it is the imposition of ashes, fasting, attending worship, going to revival services, or whatever) was an end in itself. After you do the deed, then you are free to live any way you want outside of the time of that special rite. According to what God said through the prophet Isaiah in his opening salvo, he has never taken kindly to superstitious views of religious rituals (cf. Isa 1.10-20. Mind you, the rituals that God is condemning in Isaiah are the ones that he himself set up. These were not manmade rituals. These were God’s own rituals that were being abused by superstitious views.) Superstitious views of the imposition of ashes or even fasting have no place in the Christian Faith. (more…)

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By In Culture, Family and Children, Theology, Wisdom, Worship

Lent as Subtraction by Addition

Stop Trivializing Lent
Guest post by Rev Sam Murrell of Little Rock, AR

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeupSam is an Anglican Priest in the Anglican Church in North America. He holds a Bachelors in Music from Covenant College and an MDiv from Covenant Seminary.  He is currently a Biblical Worldview Teacher at Little Rock Christian Academy. He and his wife Susan have eleven children and twenty-one grandchildren.

 

 

 

The liturgical season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues for forty days (not counting Sundays) up until Easter. It has traditionally been regarded as a time of reflection, introspection and personal renewal culminating in the celebration of the resurrection at Easter. By observing the forty days of Lent, Christians (in some sense) replicate Jesus’ time in the desert for forty days before He began His ministry. The Lenten season is a time to open our hearts to God’s sanctifying grace through the use of prayer, confession of sin, fasting, and alms-giving (Matthew 6:1-10).

Lent is one of my favorite times of the year because it forces me to take a close look at myself and my relationship with Jesus Christ. Lent reminds me of my need to rely on Christ’s grace and that I shouldn’t think too highly of myself.

When I first began to follow the Church calendar I simply mimicked what was modeled for me by my church. Over the years, however, I have come to realize that the Lenten season has the potential to be a season of great spiritual impact in my life and in the life of a congregation. Unfortunately, we have trivialized Lent by the way we choose to celebrate it.

In preparation for Lent, worshipers are exhorted to fast and abstain from things that hinder their walk with the Lord. It should be a season in which we attempt to lay aside every weight and the sin that too easily captivates our hearts and distracts us from running the race set before us (Hebrews 12:1). Hence, we are encouraged to die to self and symbolically ‘give up something for Lent’.  Most Christians who acknowledge the season of Lent make vows that ultimately have little to no impact on their spiritual growth. They vow give up such trivial things as chocolate, caffeine, a favorite show or some other soft habit. All the while, looking forward to the next Sunday when they will be able to suspend or take a sabbatical from their vow for the day (Sundays are feast days, therefore one should not fast or abstain from God’s good gifts on the Lord’s Day). This approach to Lent is not spiritually healthy, nor is it beneficial. It is my contention that we should reevaluate the way we celebrate Lent in order to better align our focus with Scripture. And how do I propose we do that?

I propose that instead of subtracting something trivial from your life like caffeine or candy, consider subtraction by addition. What do I mean? Consider temporarily adding something to life that requires you to give up some of your time in order to pursue it. For example, this year try to do something that will bring glory to Christ for the full forty days. Something with a kingdom focus. Specifically, I recommend you consider adding a daily, structured time of prayer to your schedule for Lent.  I have decided that I will pray the office of Evening Prayer with my family as much as possible with my family this Lenten season.

I suspect I will miss a few nights, but I suspect I will pray more consistently with my wife during these days, as well. Lent allows us to start simple. We all can make one adjustment for forty days. You too, may want to try to pray one portion of the Daily Office (found in the Book of Common Prayer) every day (Morning Prayer, Noon Prayer, Evening Prayer or Compline), except Sunday for the duration of Lent. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Noon Prayer can be done in as little as five to ten minutes. While that may not sound like much, the discipline of regularly praying the office will function as a daily “re-set” or reminder that God is an ever present help throughout the day.

Lent is a great time to intentionally draw near to the Lord, using the ordinary means of grace (prayer, sacraments and the Word). Think about how you can add a more biblical focus to your life during Lent this year. Commit to read the Gospels during Lent, if Lord’s Day attendance has been an issue commit to attend corporate worship all during Lent. If your church has an evening service that you rarely attend decide to attend every evening service during Lent. Make choices that will have a lasting effect on your life. Stop making trivial vows to the Lord. Eat your candy bar, after all, you’re going to go back to eating it on Easter.

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By In Podcast

Episode 3: “Why Celebrate the Church Calendar?”

On this third episode, Andrew Isker interviews Uri Brito to discuss the question of why we should celebrate the Church Calendar.

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By In Theology, Worship

10 Reasons to Celebrate the Church Calendar

Advent has begun in full force. The pro-calendar apologists have started to fight for their cause. The anti-calendar intoleristas are in full Puritan gear armed to fight for their white walls and the right to preach on Leviticus on Christmas morning.

I side with the pro-calendar party. We believe we can make America great again by incorporating a heavy dose of Jesus throughout the year. My claim is that many evangelical churches that share a slight Catholic-phobia towards the Church Calendar are already drinking much of the calendar. Most Baptist churches here in the South—who have always celebrated Christmas and Easter–are now adopting the Advent Wreath by prominently displaying it on Sunday morning. My modest proposal is to encourage these churches to take a few more steps.

I should say at the outset that I have no intention to take this to the “next level.” I am a happy ecumenical Protestant who has zero interest in jumping onto the Vatican bandwagon. I say this to stress that I am not advocating the officialization of the celebration of saints and their pets into the life of the Church. I think the Church does best and remains most faithful to the Holy Scriptures when she sticks to Jesus and his life and its effects in the world. Keep it simple students!

With that in mind, here are ten reasons I think evangelicals should celebrate the Church Calendar:

First, for those of us in the Reformed tradition, we should note that there is precedent for such observance. For instance, the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566 states (XXIV):

“Moreover, if the churches do religiously celebrate the memory of the Lord’s Nativity, Circumcision, Passion, Resurrection, and of his Ascension into heaven, and the sending of the    Holy Spirit upon his disciples, according to Christian liberty, we do very well approve of it.”

The continental Reformers differed with our Scottish brothers on these issues. Celebrating the Church Calendar can be unmistakably reformational.

Second, the Church Calendar helps us to see the world through the life of Messiah Jesus. We live in an era where political messiahs come and go. One way to de-emphasize the politics of man is to proclaim the politics of heaven. We do this most beautifully by following the Church Calendar and teaching our people and the nations about the only true Lord.

Third, the Church Calendar can serve to differentiate God’s time from the world’s time. Christians ought to give the question “What time is it?” a fundamentally different answer. It may be 9:22AM central time as I write these words, but the Christian knows that it’s 9:22AM in God’s world. God controls time, and he also orders time, and he has chosen Jesus (Hebrews 1) to speak. We redeem time most Christianly when Jesus is the center of it.

Fourth, some may ask: “Isn’t Jesus always proclaimed whether we celebrate Epiphany or not?” Of course He is. And I do not doubt the motives of many who do not follow the Church Calendar. My response, however, is that we can’t say everything about Jesus all the time, which is why we need to walk through his life and give emphasis to different portions of his life so that God’s people can know that Easter is not complete without an Ascension Sunday. Celebrating the Church Calendar helps us to understand the total Christ and his total life.

Fifth, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us parents beautiful ways to catechize our children with Jesus. Our children’s ABCs need to be Christocentric. They need to know that life only makes sense because Jesus has come for us. Numbers, letters, and playtime are taught best when Jesus rules supremely in the catechism of the home. Children love stories. Story-telling is fundamentally the role of the Calendar. The Calendar helps our kids to be formed by right chronological habits. It helps our children to know we are part of a larger story.

Sixth, celebrating the Church Calendar is useful for counseling. Calendar use is helpful to those who grieve. The Church Calendar most accurately reflects the eclectic nature of the Psalmist who laments, rejoices, and prays. Many who grieve may be a part of a community that is strict, abstract, and heavily theological. While good exegesis is good for the soul and while good systematic theology cheers the mind, a three-year series through I Corinthians can frustrate the broken-hearted. Walk the broken through the Calendar, and she will understand that Easter comes after Lent; that joy comes after sorrow. On the other hand, we can use the Calendar to teach the over-realized optimist that we need to set periods of time to focus on grieving and confessing our sins to the Lord of Calvary.

Seventh, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us an opportunity to add colors to the Church. The Christian faith is true and good, but it is also beautiful. This may seem like a minor point, but colors add to the brilliance of Church life. The Bible loves colors. It shows the favor of God (Gen. 37:3). The Church Calendar glorifies natural colors and gives them greater meaning.

Eighth, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us something to talk about. You can’t speak of the Advent Wreath without talking about hope, joy, love, and peace. The Church Calendar helps us to focus on those Christian virtues that form us as a community.

Ninth, celebrating the Church Calendar also encourages our children, friends, and unbelievers to ask questions about the faith. Why are there forty days in Lent? Why are there 12 days in Christmas? Why is purple the color of Lent? When questions arise, we draw people to the text where questions are answered and Jesus is revealed.

Finally, celebrating the Church Calendar gives us a big gospel. We are an expectant people. We no longer wait for a Messiah, but we expect the Messiah to come again and again into our lives to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight. We need the Calendar because we lose sight of what’s important. We need the Calendar because the Gospel is too big and our Lord too mighty. The Calendar focuses our attention carefully, chronologically, and conscientiously through the work of Jesus and what that work means for us and the world.

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By In Theology

What Happens the Day Before Easter?

The Passion Week provides vast theological emotions for the people of God. Palm Sunday commences with the entrance of a divine King riding on a donkey. He comes in ancient royal transportation. The royal procession concludes with a Crucified Messiah exalted on a tree.

The Church also celebrates Maundy Thursday as our Messiah provides a new commandment to love one another just as He loved us. We then proceed to sing of the anguish of that Good Friday as our blessed Lord is humiliated by soldiers and scolded by the unsavory words of the religious leaders of the day. As he walks to the Mount his pain testifies to Paul’s words that he suffered even to the point of death. But hidden in this glaringly distasteful mixture of blood, vinegar, and bruised flesh is the calmness of the day after our Lord’s crucifixion.

After fulfilling the great Davidic promise in Psalm 22, our Lord rests from his labors in the tomb. Whatever may have happened in those days prior to his resurrection, we know that Christ’s work was finished.

The Church calls this day Blessed Sabbath or more commonly, Holy Saturday. On this day our Lord reposed (rested) from his accomplishments. Many throughout history also believe that Holy Saturday is a fulfillment of Moses’ words:

God blessed the seventh day. This is the blessed Sabbath. This is the day of rest, on which the only-begotten Son of God rested from all His works . . .(Gen. 2:2)

The Church links this day with the creation account. On day seven Yahweh rested and enjoyed the fruit of his creation. Jesus Christ also rested in the rest given to him by the Father and enjoyed the fruits of the New Creation he began to establish and would be brought to light on the next day.

As Alexander Schmemann observed:

Now Christ, the Son of God through whom all things were created, has come to restore man to communion with God. He thereby completes creation. All things are again as they should be. His mission is consummated. On the Blessed Sabbath He rests from all His works.

Holy Saturday is a day of rest for God’s people; a foretaste of the true Rest that comes in the Risen Christ. The calmness of Holy Saturday makes room for the explosion of Easter Sunday. On this day, we remember that the darkness of the grave and the resting of the Son were only temporary for when a New Creation bursts into the scene the risen Lord of glory cannot contain his joy, and so he gives it to us.

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