Why do we at ERBF observe Lent in our Sunday services? If you are someone who has grown up Mennonite Brethren (or Baptist or Alliance or many other protestant denominations), then the ancient practice of Lent is unfamiliar and sounds a little too ritualistic for our comfort.
So what IS Lent? The 46 day Lent period is symbolic of the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting, praying, and preparing for His earthly minstry, and ultimately, His journey to the cross. Christians throughout history have spent the 46 days leading up to the celebration of Easter fasting, praying and preparing their own hearts. Lenten practice is intended to deepen our relationship with Jesus and continue our transformation to serve like Jesus in the world around us.
So why Lent for us? We live in a very rushed culture and the practice of Lent, including the fasting, provides a daily discipline that helps us pay attention to the presence of Jesus as we live out our day, deepening our awareness of Him. Think of Lent as a very ancient practice of being present.
What is the fasting about anyway? Historically, Christians abstain from certain kinds of food over the six weeks of Lent. The intention is to focus our attention away from the temporary things that satisfy to the One who alone can meet our needs. Ultimately, it is a call to surrender, so fasting does not need to be restricted to food. Sometimes the things that we need to fast might be our time on Netflix or TV or social media, perhaps a habit or a hobby that distracts us from God. Pray and ask God what He would have you give up for Lent to help keep your attention on Jesus.
In the end, the point of Lent is that we are drawn into intimacy with Jesus, allowing ourselves to go deeper in relationship with Him as we then reach out to serve others.
Sunday Service Lent moments are a time when we acknowledge together as the unified body of Christ both Jesus' journey to the cross and our own Lenten journey.