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Preparing For Lent
February 27, 2017
‘first clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside also may become clean’
Preparing For Lent
What is Lent?
The season of Lent is a time of preparation and discipline. While advent prepares us for the birth of Christ, Lent is a time when we prepare ourselves for Easter, the commemoration of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.
In the early church, the 40 day period of Lent was a time when new converts to Christianity would prepare themselves for their baptism. This period of preparation was marked by; taking vows of abstinence (choosing not to do something for a period of time) in order to physically discipline the body; devotion to prayer in order to spiritually align oneself with God; and almsgiving, performing acts of charity to demonstrate ones love for God through service. Over time the tradition evolved to also include old converts who would use the celebration of Lent as a means of remembering their own baptism, and re-dedicating themselves to Christ.
At cession|community we observe lent as a way of spiritually realigning ourselves. One part of this to choose to Pick Up (embracing a new habit or practice) and Put Down (letting go of a habit or activity) for the 40 days of Lent. In 2017, the 40 days of Lent runs from Wednesday 1 March (Ash Wednesday) – Thursday 13 April (before Easter weekend).
Setting Your Own Lent Goals
When setting Lent goals the first thing many people often think of is: What is something that I can handle giving up for 40 days? While this can be valuable, it doesn’t quite get to the heart of what celebrating Lent is all about. While giving things up can be an important part of the process, the real goal is seeing our lives transformed into a greater likeness of Christ.
When considering your Lent goals for 2017 begin by asking yourself: What area/aspect of my lifestyle/character do I most want to see change occur in?
What are some steps that I need to take in order to reach this goal? (These could be things you need to pick up or things you need to put down). Use our thematic goal idea around self-sacrifice (putting down) and God’s sustaining presence (picking up) for inspiration.
Which step could I action over the 40 day period of Lent to help me start moving closer to my goal?
How am I going to put this step into action?
Who are the people I need to talk to about my Lent goals so that they are able to help support me and keep me accountable to the decisions I have made? Do I need a cell group?
Shrove (or Pancake) Tuesday is the last day before the period of lent begins. Traditionally this final day before lent has been a day of celebration. Families prepare for the coming Lenten fast by using up all the eggs and fat in their kitchen cupboards by making pancakes. Shrove Tuesday is 28 February - is this something you can do as a cell group or as a family?
Action: Organise a gathering with friends and family to and celebrate with a meal of pancakes. As you eat together, share about the things which you feel really grateful for in your life and some of the changes that you would like to make to who you are and how you live your life. Talk about how you might support one another in making those changes.
The season of lent officially begins with the observance of Ash Wednesday – a day of reflection and repentance. Ash Wednesday is 1 March in 2017. We're gathering for an Ash Wednesday service from 6.30pm at the Depot.
The day derives its name from one of the ‘rites of confession’ that have traditionally been practiced on the first day of Lent; The palm leaves used to celebrate the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (celebrated one week before Easter), are kept and carefully dried out and burned. The ashes from these palms are kept until Ash Wednesday of the following year. These ashes are then used to mark the sign of the cross on the forehead of all those who wish mark their decision to repent and devote themselves to Christ.
In Judaism a similar day is observed: Yom Kippur or ‘The Day of Atonement’. Like Ash Wednesday Yom Kippur is a day reserved for repentance. For Jewish people it is the holiest day of the year. It is a day of fasting and prayer. On the Day of Atonement, people are able to be absolved from their sins against God, but not against humanity. It is traditional for Jewish people to settle all disputes and disagreements in the days prior to Yom Kippur so that they are able to make peace with God.
Action: As Lent begins, reflect on the relationships in your life:
Are there relationships in your life where there is conflict that you need to resolve in order to free yourself to follow Christ more closely?
Are there barriers, things in the way that limit you in your desire to follow Christ?
What other life/attitude changes might you need to make in your life in order for you to follow Christ more closely?
Is there something that you could Pick Up or Put Down that would lead you to make these changes?