Day One; What is Lent?
Written by Matt Carder
Welcome to our daily readings for Lent. We’re glad you’re curious enough about this to find yourself reading Day 1—you’re off to a great start! Our hope and prayer is that we all find the writings ahead of us to be meaningful, challenging, and life-giving. Perhaps you’re wondering, “What is this about?” Fair enough. As we venture into this season of Lent, I’d like to tell you what to expect and where we’re going together over the next 40 days.
Depending on your church background or experience, we all come to this particular season in the church calendar with different levels of understanding. If you’re newer to church, or don’t come from a church background where Lent is traditionally observed, you may have questions surrounding it. Because of my church background, I grew up having a vague awareness that Lent existed, but I didn’t know much about it. In fact, I assumed Lent was something only “Catholics did”—not true, by the way! Others of us already have a framework for what we’re observing in this season, or, at least, we remember how Lent was celebrated in a previous church we were a part of. While there are some historically common threads or themes, in reality, there’s no “one” or “right” way to observe Lent.
That said, here’s a brief overview of Lent to make sure we’re all starting with the same basic understanding. Celebrated for centuries among many Christian traditions—from Catholic to Orthodox to various Protestant denominations—the Lenten season lasts 40 days. This year, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (March 6) and goes to Holy Saturday (April 20), not counting the Sundays along the way. Lent is simply a time to prepare our hearts and minds so that we can, once again, enter more fully into the history changing and life-transforming events of Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection. The goal is that we would arrive at Holy Week more fully prepared to allow the reality of Jesus’ personal sacrifice and victory over sin and death to shape our everyday lives.
For most believers throughout history, Lent has been an intentional time of soul-searching, confession and repentance. In many Christian streams, some form of fasting is often included as part of this preparation process—a means of not only identifying with Christ’s suffering in some (albeit small) way, but also as a way of demonstrating our renewed commitment to open our lives to His deeper heart-cleansing presence and activity.
We have chosen this year to focus our theme on several of the core spiritual disciplines, or practices, of our faith. Over the coming weeks, various members of our church family will challenge us to consider how we might be more intentional in growing in these postures and activities that create space for God to breathe fresh life into the dusty corners of our souls. These readings, designed to help us draw nearer to God in this season, are based loosely off of a classic book called Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster.
As the word “discipline” suggests, these life-giving practices will require some effort. Some of these disciplines may be new for you. Some may come more naturally than others. But our invitation is simple: Would you be willing to set aside a few moments each day to learn about a particular spiritual discipline? Would you consider incorporating some of these practices in your own life in the coming weeks? Don’t feel like you have to make some enormous effort or join a monastery for this to fit into your life. It really is amazing what God can do with whatever we have to give.
Our prayer is that during the next 40 days together, we could discover more deeply through these spiritual practices what many faithful saints have discovered before us—Jesus has come to give us life to the full (John 10:10). The truth is, it’s God’s job to do His work in our lives. All we have to do is show up.
Write this Way: Show up tomorrow. You may want to have a notebook you use specifically for reflections each day. You will love looking back at all God has shown you during this 40 day journey.
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About the Author
Matt Carder is the founding pastor of Commonway. A 2002 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, Matt backpacked solo to over 30 countries after graduation, before returning home to marry his college sweetheart, Liz. Commonway was birthed under his leadership in 2005 at Union Chapel, and was planted as an independent church in August of 2011. Matt has his Masters of Divinity at Asbury Theological Seminary. He enjoys each new life adventure with his wife and two children.