On Ash Wednesday we are introduced to a season of remembrance and penitence, called Lent.
“Remembrance” is key to Biblical worship. To remember what Jesus did for our salvation is therefore the benchmark of a Biblical celebration of Ash Wednesday, the Lenten Season, Holy Week and Easter.
“Remembrance worship” is rooted in the Lord’s Supper.
The Lord’s Supper is irreplaceable and unique. But it does refer us to the principle that remembering God’s gospel events has great value. Christian worship and fellowship is defined by celebrating Holy Communion in remembrance of Jesus, our Lord, to the glory of God, our Father.
Systematically proclaiming the Scriptures during days and seasons of remembrance and faithfully preaching what the Bible tells us about the suffering, death, resurrection and ascendance of Jesus is a disciplined and structured way of teaching and preaching the full council of God.
Remembrance is rooted in Old Testament worship.
Devotional life in the Old Testament was based on “remembering” the great deeds of salvation and liberation by the God of Israel. Each one of the feasts prescribed in the Law, remembered, celebrated and taught what God did in the history of his people, creating and strengthening the belief that the LORD will continue to keep his grace covenant and be their God and the God of their children, encouraging them to, as the people of God, seek obedience to the Lord.
It was at such a feast of remembrance, the Passover, that Jesus instituted his Holy Supper. In the mind of Jesus, faith would still be sown and grown through “remembering” as part of the New Testament church. Christ’s church is established when we remember what Jesus has done to make us his own.
Jesus gave us the key to Christian worship when he said: Do this in remembrance of me!
Historic Background of the Lenten and Resurrection Seasons.
Resurrection Sunday (often called Easter Sunday) is the oldest commemorative day in Christianity. It was observed since the first century as a result of the influence of the Jewish Passover. It is the result of the first Christians, from the very beginning of the church, celebrating the resurrection every week on the Lord’s Day, by celebrating the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of him.
During the second century it became customary to baptise converts on Resurrection Sunday. They had to be prepared for the public confession of their faith and these preparations lasted 40 days – not counting Sundays.
It relates to the fact that Jesus was prepared for 40 days in the desert before his ministry started.
Should Christians observe Lent and Easter?
It is a good tradition if we steer clear of legalistic prescriptions and inflexible observances of culturally based customs, particularly those that encourage ritualistic worship with ideas strange to the simple gospel of salvation.
It is a good practice if we rely only on the Word to reveal the gospel truth, if we preach Christ, the crucified, risen and ascended Saviour. It is good ministry if it grows the faith of the believers and edifies them as they celebrate the wonders of salvation given to us in and through Jesus Christ.
How do I participate?
We participate by ensuring that we too celebrate and remember when the church of the Lord meets for public worship during these days and seasons of remembrance.
We also participate when our private devotions reflect on what these gospel events teach us and what message the Lord personally has for us.
Discipline is the key word, the Greek word Paul uses for "Godliness", and indicates moderation, frugality, charity, meditation, prayer, and study. Godliness is a lifestyle promoted by Lent that draws us closer to God and to seek to live holy lives because we are grateful for the grace and mercy of God.
Lenten additions include, amongst others,
- coming closer to God through times of focussed prayer, reflection and worship;
- touching others through charity and kindness.
What do protestant Christians emphasise during the Lenten season?
There are two important aspects:
Penitence: We realise our own brokenness and our need for Christ. God’s commandments become our teacher that drives us to Christ for forgiveness with a thirst for sanctification.
Preparation: We strive to open our hearts wider for remembering Christ’s suffering and death.
During Lent people add to their daily routines in order to draw closer to God.
Preaching, prayer, Bible study and contemplating the gospel are key to observing Lent. Coming to Church and sharing with the faithful in our community will teach us to be disciplined in worship.
Seeking justice in the world by giving and volunteering for charity and promoting causes for justice, while reaching out to those who do not know the Lord Jesus as Saviour and God as their Father, form part of the Lenten Season.
There must be no legalism about any of this. We are not trying to impress God. We're trying to prepare our hearts for the highlight of all celebrations when we remember the victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Observing Lent is no obligation!
It is not even a Biblical requirement!
But it is a good custom that helped many Christians since the second century to, in fellowship with their fellow Christians, seek a closer walk with the Lord that lasts during all seasons!