Observing a Holy Lent 2019
By the Rev. Kyle Tomlin
The season of Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with the following Invitation to the Observance of a Holy Lent found in the Ash Wednesday Liturgy:
“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord's passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting. This season of Lent provided a time in which converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism. It was also a time when those who, because of notorious sins, had been separated from the body of the faithful were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness, and restored to the fellowship of the Church. Thereby, the whole congregation was put in mind of the message of pardon and absolution set forth in the Gospel of our Savior, and of the need which all Christians continually have to renew their repentance and faith. I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God's holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer” (BCP 264-265).
As the above invitation sets forth, Lent is a season of self-examination and repentance that is marked by times of prayer, fasting, and self-denial, and time spent reading and hearing God’s holy Word. All of this is done to prepare us to once again hear and rejoice in the proclamation of our Lord Jesus Christ’s saving work for us during Holy Week and on Easter Day. To enable you to enter the season in this way, I’ve included below some suggestions on how you might observe a holy Lent.
Spend time each day reading the Bible – If you are not already committed to reading the Bible each day, now is a good time to get started. To help give you some direction on what to read, try using the Lenten Devotional from Trinity School for Ministry which is provided by the church. This devotional contains the Book of Common Prayer 1979 Lectionary readings prescribed for each day of Lent – Old Testament, Psalm(s), Epistle, and Gospel. Reading the Bible using the Lectionary is a great way to read through almost the whole Bible over the course of two years. If you need help figuring out how to navigate the Lectionary, Fr. Kyle would be more than happy to help you.
Spend time each day in prayer – A great way to spend time praying during Lent is to use the Daily Offices of Morning and Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. Both offer the opportunity to “pray” the Bible, as almost everything in each service is merely Scripture recast in prayer form. You might also want to consider coming out to church for Morning Prayer on Tuesdays and Thursdays during Lent. These services begin at 9am.
Spend time reading Christian writings – There are any number of good, solid Christian books on the market these days, although not all of them are sold in places like Barnes and Noble or Books-a-Million. Some recommendations of good books are: Night Driving: Notes from a Prodigal Soul and Your God is Too Glorious two great books by Chad Bird; What’s So Amazing About Grace? By Philip Yancey; Grace in Practice by Paul F.M. Zahl; Law & Gospel by Will McDavid, Ethan Richardson, and David Zahl; With My Own Eyes by Bo Giertz; and Scandalous Stories by Daniel Emory Price and Erick Sorensen. Or perhaps try reading something old, such as something from St. Augustine, Martin Luther, or John Calvin. There are now loads of older Christian writings available for free online through sources like Google Books.
Attend the Lenten Teaching Series – On each of the five Sundays during Lent, we will be watching and discussing the video series based on the book by Philip Yancey titled, What’s So Amazing About Grace? This is a great opportunity to reflect on the biblical message of God’s grace and love for us in Jesus Christ and to reflect on just how radical that grace and love is toward us sinners.
Unplug – Perhaps one of the best ways to observe a holy Lent is to disconnect from some, or all, of the electronic distractions that we have going on all around us. Instead of spending time looking at email, or on Facebook, or surfing the Web, turn off your devices for a while and make an effort to spend time reading or praying or serving your neighbors in some capacity.
Take up a fast – I know how it goes: Everyone wants to give up chocolate, or sweets, or alcohol for Lent. If we’re honest, for many this is done with a slightly selfish bent; that is, to lose a little weight. Instead of that though, how about this: try fasting as a discipline of the body and a reminder that “man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God,” and use the fasting time to feast on God’s Word.
Come for private confession and absolution – Although it seldom happens in the Episcopal Church today, private confession is still available and is quite appropriate to be used during the season of Lent. To unburden ourselves of our sins and to hear God’s Word of forgiveness from the mouth of a Priest can be quite freeing. If this is something that interests you, please feel free to talk with Fr. Kyle and make an appointment.