Honouring the Sacrifice of Jesus (LENTEN) - Part 1
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry. Matthew 4:1-2.
What is Lent - A Time Set Aside
Just as we set aside time to spiritually prepare for Christmas Day, it makes sense to set aside time to prepare for the two most important days of the Christian year. Lent is a time that offers us an opportunity to come to terms with the human condition we may spend the rest of the year running from and it brings our need for a Savior to the forefront. Like Advent, Lent is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper, so that when Good Friday and eventually Easter comes, it is not just another day at church but an opportunity to receive the overflowing of graces God has to offer.
But unlike the childlike joy associated with the season of Advent, with it's eager anticipation of the precious baby Jesus, Lent is an intense penitential time as we examine our sinful natures, rebelliousness and return to God. Lent is also an opportunity to contemplate what our Lord really did for us on the cross - and it wasn't pretty. But ultimately, the purpose of Lent does not stop at sadness and despair - it points us to the hope of resurrection and the day when every tear will be dried (Rev. 21:3).
And about three o'clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Matthew 27:33-49
Although the nature of suffering is not one that offers itself to easy explanations or answers, the answers we seek seem to make the most sense in light of the cross. There is nothing in the world - no religion, philosophy, or material comfort - that offers such a powerful answer to life's toughest questions as the two slabs of wood on which our Savior died. Although I was drawn to Christianity in search of joy, it's the cross that keeps me coming back day after day, year after year. It is this time of year, known as Lent, that I am reminded of what Jesus did for me.
When I look into the eyes of our suffering God, I'm in awe - suddenly the complexity of our Lord, the love of our Lord, the humanity of our Lord shows through. I realize God is not just some nebulous energy source or a grandfather sitting in the clouds - He is so much more. The cross is where our faith stands when all other faith fails. Christ's sacrifice and his subsequent resurrection are the true "cruxes" of the christian faith. Without one there would be no salvation, without the other, no hope. This is why Good Friday and the following Easter Sunday are the most important dates on the christian calendar - even more so than Christmas.
When Does Lent Start This Year?
The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday on March 6, 2019; if you are following the 40 days tradition, Lent ends on Holy Saturday, April 20, 2019.
However, in the Catholic tradition the General Norms for the Liturgical Year and the Calendar, was updated in 1969 to say: "Lent runs from Ash Wednesday until the Mass of the Lord's Supper exclusive." The Mass of the Lord's Supper for Catholics is on Maundy Thursday or Holy Thursday, which is on April 18, 2019. For those adhering to that tradition, Lent will end on Thursday, April 18. Read more in our When Does Lent Start and End article.
The History of Lent
So where does Lent come from, and how do we "do" Lent? The Lenten season developed as part of the historical christian calendar and is typically celebrated by Catholics and some mainline Protestant churches that follow a liturgical calendar. Although its format has varied throughout the centuries and throughout different cultures, the basic concept remains the same: to open our hearts to God's refining grace through prayer, confession, fasting, and almsgiving as we anticipate the Holy Week. Lent traditionally lasts forty days, modeled after Christ's forty day fast in the desert, and ends on Good Friday. In the Western Church, Lent officially begins with a reminder of our mortality on Ash Wednesday (this year, falling on March 1st).
All Biblical Scriptures Quoted,
Pastor Serah Philips – Cross Road of Christian Fasting, 2015, U.S.A.
Prepared & Compiled by:
ELD. BRO. ADEOLA ADEOYE (DR. GP).
National Convener/President, Alabaster Youth International Ministry – Interdenominational,
Chapel Leader, Progressive International (C&S), Ogo-Oluwa Parish, Chapel of Glorious Star, Ogun State.