At many different points throughout history, God has used a period of 40 days to accomplish miraculous things. He caused rain to fall for 40 days, flooding the earth in the time of Noah. He dwelt with Moses on Mount Sinai for 40 days, responding to Israel’s rebellion with glorious mercy. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days before faithfully withstanding Satan’s temptation by wielding the truth of God’s Word. It is this miraculous 40-day event in particular that has shaped the ancient Christian practice known as Lent.
WHAT IS LENT?
Lent is a season on the liturgical calendar, an annual sanctuary within time set apart to reflect the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus. In the way that Advent teaches us to wait with hope, and Christmas teaches us to praise with awe, Lent teaches us to reflect with humility.
Since as early as the first century, Christians have marked the 40 days leading up to Easter as a time of reflection and repentance, considering Jesus’ life of faithfulness, and the faithfulness of their own lives in response to Him. (For what it’s worth, Sundays are not counted towards this 40-day tally, regarded instead as a day for reflecting on Jesus’ resurrection with triumphant joy).
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, which this year in 2023 falls on February 22nd, Lent is traditionally shaped by three spiritual practices: prayer, fasting, and serving those in need. These practices reflect Jesus’ time in the wilderness, where He experienced intimacy with the Father, embraced the self-denial of fasting, and prepared to give Himself to the greatest need of all – the salvation of His people (Matthew 4:1-11).
LENT AT LIBERTI
In recent years, the observance of Lent has been widely adopted by churches of different geographical locations and theological backgrounds, meaning there are a number of different ways that Lent is practised in our modern day context. Some Christian traditions use the season of Lent as an opportunity to imitate these aspects of Jesus’ life by spending focused time with God in prayer, fasting from food, and considering their own generosity with renewed intentionality.
At Liberti, our adoption of Lent is much simpler: it is a season of time devoted to seeing who Jesus is, beholding his work on our behalf, and priming our hearts to celebrate the glorious gospel truths that are written in large letters over Easter weekend. We will be using, “Truly, Truly, I Say To You: Meditations on the Words of Jesus from the Gospel of John” by our Teaching Pastor, Adam Ramsey, as a devotional resource. Each entry invites us to meditate on the various words of Jesus from John’s Gospel, read through a short reflection, pray, and then press the truth home into our hearts with the soul-stirring words of the 19th century preacher, Charles Spurgeon. It is my hope that God would use these 40 days of Lent to open our eyes to how we might, in new ways, offer up our lives to the One who is “the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), and experience, in Him, joy everlasting.
Some of us may want to use the Lenten season to also fast from food, or consider how to give beyond the ordinary rhythm of generosity in our lives. These are good and God-honouring desires. Yet we must remember that observing Lent, or pledging a specific denial during this 40-day period, is not explicitly commanded in scripture. We don’t have to, we get to. So, if you choose, do so with the freedom from obligation that our Lord has purchased for you. And as you do, set your gaze on Jesus; not on whatever it is you are giving up.
LENT: AN INVITATION TO SEE AND SAVOUR JESUS
So as we approach Easter Weekend this year, let’s remember: Lent is not an obligation. It’s an invitation. We’re not so much observing Christian practices; we’re observing Christ through these practices. Let’s together ask the Spirit to make Jesus larger in our lives, both through unhurried reflection and through joyful celebration. Come; see and savour Jesus with us this Lenten season. Who knows what God might do in your life with 40 days of intentionally seeking Him.