We are entering the time where we will journey through the season of Lent together. Lent is 40 days. WE DO NOT COUNT THE SUNDAYS DURING LENT AS A PART OF THIS 40 DAY JOURNEY BECAUSE EVERY SUNDAY MARKS THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS. But, 40 has a lot of significance in scripture. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai. Elijah spent 40 days and nights walking to Mount Horeb, God sent 40 days and nights of rain in the flood with Noah, the Hebrew people wandered 40 years in the desert, and Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days.
And as a community, we will prepare ourselves together for the celebration of the Resurrection. Lent has served as a preparatory time for Easter since the early days of the church. For hundreds and hundreds of years, the people of God have prepared for the celebration of the Resurrection by partaking in a season of penitence and fasting.
We do this by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on scripture and who God is through songs of worship and through moments of silence. And we want to enter into these rhythms as a community.
We began that process last night by celebrating the start of Lent: Ash Wednesday.
Another way we want to do that is by corporately fasting together as a community. For the season of Lent, we as a staff will be fasting from Thursdays after dinner until 3pm on Fridays. This is an observance of the time from the Last Supper until Jesus was taken down from the Cross.
We believe there is something powerful about fasting together and is not something that we have always encouraged.
Many people engage with the lenten season in other ways as well, chief among them self-denial. The most common of these is commonly referred to as giving up "meats and sweets", or others may cut out chocolate, alcohol, or try to give up smoking. Maybe people will decide to give up social media, TV (and yes that can mean Hulu and Netflix), or a myriad of other things.
These are great things and we fully support observing Lent in these ways.
But we challenge you to pick up a practice as well. Many during this time you will give extra to the poor among us in our city, or to organizations across the globe. For example, if you fast with us on Fridays through lunch, you can use the money you normally would have spent on lunch to then buy a meal for someone in need. Or if you give up Netflix, use that time to engage in prayer and studying.
In all of this, there is no rule. We aren't earning anything or proving our holiness. Our hope is that we would draw closer to Jesus and be more and more shaped by him and allow our lives to reflect who he is.
There are numerous readings out there on fasting and the disciplines, one of the best is Richard Foster's celebration of Discipline. Another great resource can be found on Redeemer Church in New York's website from one of the early church fathers, John Crysostom, called Fasting Basics. They have another simple document on there you can access here.
And if you are interested in podcast, here is a great one from a pastor in Missouri named Brian Zahnd. Practice Resurrection: Fasting.