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Lent Guide 2021

Introduction

What is Lent?

Lent is a season devoted to the awareness of our sin and the practice of turning our hearts toward Christ in humble repentance. It takes place during the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, mirroring Jesus’ own temptation when, for 40 days, the Spirit led him into the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). The rhythm of Lent invites Christians everywhere to slow down and set aside time each day to focus on Jesus’ own ministry—specifically his sacrificial death, which we celebrate on Good Friday. Therefore, Lent is often marked by fasting, prayer, and reflection on our need for Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But ultimately, the season of Lent culminates on Easter when we celebrate the hope of the resurrection life that comes through saving faith in Jesus!

Although Lent is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture, we must not overlook its importance. This great tradition dates as far back as the 4th century AD and continues to be a vital rhythm in the church calendar across many denominations all over the world. In many ways, Lent is a retelling of the gospel story with our very bodies and lives. Through formational practices we are reminded that the gospel isn’t only something that was accomplished, but also a reality that we participate in, with Christ himself and his body, the Church. It is in this great tradition that we imitate our great God and Savior (1 Peter 2:21; Ephesians 5:1).

How To Use This Guide

The beauty of Lent is that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. As a church family, we will celebrate Lent together on Sundays. But, we encourage you to use this guide on your own as a way to slow down and intentionally “journey to the cross” with Jesus. This guide follows the six weeks of Lent and provides a theme for prayer and meditation each week. Included is a “suggested fast” for each week, which we strongly encourage. Items to fast from include things like sugar, alcohol, news, social media, Netflix, red meat, etc. You may instead choose to fast from one of these items for the entire 40 days. We recognize personal devotions can be intimidating, since it’s often difficult to know how or where to start. So, imbedded in every week is a liturgical flow for you to follow. Feel free to adapt it to fit your personal rhythm.

A Note About Fasting

Fasting has long been a primary practice Christians observe during the Lenten season. In his book, Journey To The Cross, Will Walker notes that fasting is “a tangible, physical activity that points to our spiritual longing to be rooted in Jesus alone and find our true comfort and joy in him.” Our physical hunger brings about a deeper awareness of our spiritual hunger for which only Christ can satisfy! This is why we fast—so our longing for Jesus grows stronger.

What About Sundays?

If you did the math, you probably realized there are forty six days of Lent. This is because Sundays are known as “Feast Days” where people often break their fast one day of the week and celebrate with friends and family. This is encouraged since Sundays are a celebration as God’s people gather to worship Jesus and remember the new life we have in him! All that to say, use Sundays as a day to celebrate in this season.

Final Word

As a reminder, this is all by invitation. There is no requirement, as disciples of Jesus, to observe Lent. But, as a community we will go through this practice together and we invite you to journey along with us as we celebrate Christ’s amazing work!

Week 1 | Rest

February 22 – 27

Suggested Fast: Shopping

Online or in store, apart from the necessities. Avoid unnecessary spending. Live simply this week.

Open in Prayer

Sit in silence for at least 90 seconds. Pray as you feel led to open your time with God.

Prayer of Confession: A Plea for Rest

Heavenly Father, have mercy on me according to your unfailing love. Wash away all my transgressions and cleanse me from my sin. Your forgiveness is the doorway to experiencing the rest you offer. Surely you desire truth from my heart; please teach me your wisdom that it would flow out of me. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence! Instead, restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen.

Celebrate Forgiveness!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Scripture Meditation

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5

Devotional

To abide means to remain or to rest in. Whether you are aware of it or not, your soul is abiding in something right now; you just may be too busy to know what that “something” is. Truthfully, many of us wear our “busyness” like it’s a badge of honor. Even with the abundance of time gained in quarantine (at least for some), many have hardly slowed down in a way that is truly restful and restorative. Instead we tend to saturate our souls with media and entertainment to escape the fractured realities of life.

Thankfully Jesus offers His disciples a better way: he offers an unceasing rest that comes from abiding in him. Jesus says that like branches we are to remain connected to him, the true vine through which life itself is mediated. And just like a branch withers and dies when broken off from the vine, so do we when we are broken off from Christ. When we abide in the things of this world, we cease to produce kingdom fruit. In fact, Jesus makes perhaps the boldest claim of all, saying, “apart from me you can do nothing” (emphasis added). Through prayer and fasting, make this week one of abiding rest in Jesus. Seek to do nothing apart from the true vine of Christ.

Reflection

Do you truly believe that apart from Christ you can do nothing? How might your life look different if you believed Christ’s words? If not Jesus, in what or in whom is your soul prone to abide? What activities do you fill your time with as a way to escape and numb? Do those things truly offer the rest you desire? Why or why not?

Closing Prayer of Thanksgiving for Rest

Father God, in your steadfast love and mercy you have not despised the broken and humble heart. Rather, you have invited me into the eternal rest found in your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you, Spirit of God, for giving me the rest my soul so desperately longs for—in this life and in the age to come. Thanks be to my gracious and compassionate Triune God! Amen!

Week 2 | Repent

March 1 - 6

Suggested Fast: Media + Entertainment

Social media, video games, television, and streaming (i.e. Netflix)

Open in Prayer

Sit in silence for at least 90 seconds. Pray as you feel led to open your time with God.

Prayer of Confession from Psalm 51

Heavenly Father, have mercy on me according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my transgressions and cleanse me from my sin. Surely you desire truth from my heart; please teach me your wisdom that it would flow out of me. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence! But instead, restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Amen.

Celebrate Forgiveness!

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us of our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9

Scripture Meditation

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you.” Acts 3:19-20

Devotional

God makes an amazing promise to us through Peter’s powerful sermon in Acts 3. He says that if we want refreshment in our lives, the type of refreshment that comes from knowing and being known by Jesus, we must first repent. Repentance is in fact the gateway to experiencing the presence of Christ. Fundamentally, repentance is turning away from sin and turning toward God. During Lent we intentionally turn our focus away from the endless distractions of this world so that we can be more aware of God’s presence in our lives. But Peter’s words should serve as a clear reminder that it is first and foremost through repentance that we encounter Christ. Therefore, it’s fitting that this week we meditate on and practice repentance.

Reflection

Open your journal and write down any thoughts the Holy Spirit brings to mind in response to the questions below.

Are there specific, recurring sins in your life that you need to repent of? What good things in your life are you prone to make ultimate things—idols that you elevate above God? What does it look like to turn away from these things and move toward Jesus?

Closing Prayer of Thanksgiving

Lord Jesus Christ, you have borne my sins in your body on the cross and healed me by your wounds. Holy Spirit, you have led me into truth and graciously spoken words of forgiveness, peace, and new life. Thanks be to my gracious and compassionate Triune God! Amen!

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