Lent: A Season of Decrease and Increase (Pastor's Desk Article)

From Pastor Nate, February 2, 2023

What’s the Deal with Lent? 
Growing up in mostly Baptist and non-denominational churches, we did not participate in Lent, but many people in the largely Catholic area I lived in did. All I knew about Lent were the strange smudgy crosses on foreheads and my bemoaning classmates that had to have fish sticks on Fridays.

As I’ve learned more about Lent’s rich history and meaning, I have come to appreciate its helpful role in the life of the church as we look to Easter. As grateful as I am for my Evangelical heritage, we have a penchant for throwing liturgical “babies out with the bathwater.” I believe many Evangelicals have done this with Lent as an overreaction to the dangers of tradition and works-based salvation. “We don’t want people thinking,” they say, “that by getting ashes on their foreheads and fasting they will earn God’s salvation.” But what if Lent is not about earning but worshipping? What if Lent isn’t about empty traditions but about a meaningful journey with our Savior, Jesus?

Maybe you are skeptical about practicing Lent or assume it’s just for Catholics as I once did. I would like to share some of the history and benefits of Lent to hopefully encourage you to participate along with your church family this season.

Lent For Dummies
Lent has a rich history dating even before the Council of Nicaea in 325AD. Christians began observing a season of fasting and praying before Easter to follow in their Savior’s 40 day fast in the wilderness after His baptism (Matthew 4).

The 40 days (46 with Sundays) of the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday, February 22. Traditionally, Christians would receive ashes on their foreheads as a sober reminder that we will return to dust and to relate to Jesus’ death on the cross. While Advent is a time of joyful anticipation in preparation for Christmas, Lent is commonly regarded as a period of sober observance in preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus. Lent is a meaningful way to connect and relate to Jesus in His rejection, arrest, suffering, death, burial and ultimately His resurrection.

How We Practice Lent
There are four common practices of Lent. This year, Brandywine Valley Church will provide you with accessible ways to practice each aspect of Lent individually and corporately. In addition, we will be journeying through Passion Week in Mark 14-16 on Sundays and incorporating these practices of the Lent season into the services.

#1 Repentance From Sin. On Ash Wednesday, Christians are encouraged to identify besetting sins and bring them before our Savior and commit ourselves to purity. On February 22, 6:30-8:15 p.m., we are hosting a Night of Worship. This will be an opportunity for you to join your church family in worship, contemplation, confession, and prayer.

#2 Fixed Quiet Time. During each day of Lent, Christians are encouraged to set a specific time each day for Bible reading, prayer and meditation. You are encouraged to get up 20-30 minutes earlier than usual, or to set aside another time each day. We will be providing you with a daily Lent Devotional and Calendar that includes both directed prayer and activities that you can do individually, as a family, or with your small group. You can access the daily devotional by subscribing to the Prayer Chain, visiting our Facebook page or below on this web page.

#3 Fasting (Decreasing). During the 40 days of Lent, Christians choose to fast as an act of worship, discipline and greater focus on the suffering of Jesus. While fasting is traditionally associated with food, you may choose to fast from anything you ordinarily devote time to, or you can fast from a variety of things, changing them week-to-week. For example, you may fast from sweets for the first week, social media the second week, TV the third week, alcohol the fourth week, gaming the fifth week and a mealtime the sixth week. At the February 22 Night of Worship and the following Sunday services, we will give you opportunities to commit yourself to a season of decrease with your church family.

#4 Giving (Increasing). Lent also provides the opportunity to sacrificially give and serve the Lord in a particularly intentional way. Christians are encouraged to use the time they are saving during their fast to serve the Lord. This season of increase may be marked by sacrificial giving, writing notes of encouragement, serving with a ministry partner, or helping a neighbor. We encourage you to prayerfully consider ways you can serve the Lord during this time. At the February 22 Night of Worship and the following Sunday services, we will give you opportunities to commit yourself to a season of increase with your church family.

Will you come along with us on this Lenten journey? I would encourage you to pray and begin talking about Lent with your family, small group and friends. I believe this will be a powerful season in the life of our church family as we anticipate celebrating the resurrection of Jesus.

40 Days of Prayer Devotionals

Daily devotionals will be available here beginning on February 22. Devotionals can also be accessed via Facebook and the Prayer Chain email. Sign up for the email Prayer Chain.

In addition to the daily devotionals we also have a Lent Calendar. This Lent Calendar is for households to do together. Begin by reading the scripture for the day, then focus on the daily activity. Download the Lent Calendar pdf or pick up a copy in the Lobby beginning February 22.

Night of Worship

As we kick off our 40 Days of Prayer with a Night of Worship, we invite you to attend this special event. Join us on Ash Wednesday, February 22 from 6:30pm to 8:00pm for a Night of Worship. As part of our focus on Lent, we will be inviting you to make a personal commitment for the 40 Days of Prayer.