Beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 9, when we are marked with ashes and hear the words “from dust you came and to dust you will return,” we begin a 40-day journey toward Easter. Before we can experience the joy of resurrection, we must experience the despair of death. In Lent, we remember that we are mortal humans, that we are destined to, one day, die – and that we are sinful. As we remember these two grim facts, we look forward to our hope in Jesus who defeated death and forgave us all our sins through his cross and resurrection.

In Lent, we have a time of self-examination, listening, preparation and repentance. It is important that we have 40 days to give to this vital work. We give little space in our world to this kind of attention, particularly to thinking about the gravity of our sin. This is why Lent involves choosing some discipline – an ordered way to obey the Spirit’s voice in our life and to identify with Jesus’ 40 days fasting in the wilderness, where Jesus wrestled with temptation and heard from the Father. We too must wrestle with temptation. We too are desperate to hear from the Father.

However, the focus of Lent is not on us or our sin. The focus is on Jesus. The focus is on mercy and renewal. Repentance leads us to the joy found in forgiveness. As Bobby Gross said, “In the solitary sojourn, we turn away from our sins and temptations and toward God and his great mercy.” This is why the 40 days of Lent do not include Sundays. There are 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Each Sunday we break our fast. Each Sunday is a mini-Easter.

We will encourage a Lenten rhythm of two practices for our church this year: A Lenten discipline, and daily Lenten prayer. The point of a discipline is not to prove you can do something hard or to show God how serious a Christian you are. Rather, the point of a discipline is to allow a way to practice what God is calling you into – or what God is calling you out of. A discipline is a response to the work of God’s Spirit in your heart. Click here to download a pdf including some examples of disciplines and some help determining what kind of discipline God may be calling you to this season.

We will be giving a "Lenten Journey" folder to every family or individual in our church with the above linked explanation packet, along with a card for our daily prayer. Click here to download a pdf of the prayer card. We are inviting everyone in our church to find 10 minutes in the morning, a couple minutes in the middle of our day, and 10 minutes in the evening to talk with God. Nothing too overwhelming here. The idea is for us simply and prayerfully to submit to God and one another, perhaps more intentionally than we might otherwise. The 10-minute “In the Morning” devotion includes a song, two short scripture readings, and a prayer. At some point in the middle of the day (or at a few times), just for a minute or two, we stop, silence ourselves, and re-focus on Jesus. The 10-minute “In the Evening” guide helps us attend to the Holy Spirit’s activity in our lives. We encourage families, small groups, and peers to do this together as often as possible. We are all on this journey with Jesus together!

I would love to hear how other churches are planning to intentionally participate in the death of Christ this Lenten season. Feel free to adapt the above resources and use them in your own church, just as I stole them from Winn Collier and All Souls Church, Charlottesville, VA.

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