Each year, Lent is observed as a time of preparation for the coming of Easter. It is not just something that has been observed for the 148+ years that Trinity Lutheran Church has been active here in Fergus Falls. Lent has been observed since the 4th century, a period of about 1700 years. Over those many long years Christians throughout the world have observed this time devoted to the discipline of learning and growing in faith, for repentance and for prayer, and at times even for fasting and practicing self-control. All of this is aimed at recognizing our need for and the work of our savior Jesus on our behalf. This season of the church year then culminates with our celebration of Easter, when we celebrate our savior’s victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil.
There are several changes that come about during this time of Lenten preparation. At the conclusion of our worship on February 27, we join together in singing the hymn “Alleluia, Song of Gladness.” In verse 3 of this hymn, we sing “Alleluia cannot always be our song while here below; Alleluia, our transgressions make us for a while forego; For the solemn time is coming when our tears for sin must flow.” The
conclusion of that hymn will be the final time that we sing Alleluia together until Easter. During Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday, we abstain from Alleluias and our worship takes on a more solemn, repentant character. On Ash Wednesday, actual ashes will be placed upon our foreheads so that we may “remember we are dust, and to dust we shall return,” just has been done in the Christian Church for over 1000 years. Throughout the season of Lent, we will cease to sing the Hymn of Praise. Neither “This is the Feast” nor the Gloria in Excelsis will be sung until Easter arrives. And during these six weeks of Lent, the Sunday readings and our worship together is focused upon the themes of Lent – reflection on Baptism, the rebirth we receive through the work of the Holy Spirit, and renewal in preparation for the celebration of our Easter joy.
There are other activities that have been practiced over the years during Lent. People often “give something up for Lent.” For example, Roman Catholics are instructed not to eat meat on Fridays during Lent. However, Lutherans do not make any such demand. Instead, we are freely invited to willingly abstain from some activity or another during this Lenten season. The purpose of giving something up for Lent is to continually draw our hearts and minds in repentance to look toward our savior Jesus and what He does for us. The absence of whatever we’ve abstained from is to draw our hearts and minds to Christ. Lent points us toward the upper room, the garden at Gethsemane, and the trial of Maundy Thursday, as well as the beating by the soldiers and the agony on the cross of Good Friday. Observing the consequence of sin helps us even better to understand the depth of the love that our Triune God has shown for us.
We also have additional opportunities for worship during Lent. Wednesday midweek services will be held beginning on March 2 with Ash Wednesday. The theme for our Midweek services this year is “The Fruit of the Spirit,” drawing upon Galatians 5:22-23, where each week we’ll consider one of the fruits that the Holy Spirit is bringing to fruition in our lives.
As we enter into the season of Lent, it is my prayer that the Lord would use this season to strengthen each of us in faith through the hearing of His Word and the reception of His Sacraments, that we would be drawn to repentance over sin, and that our hearts would be renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit, that we may walk as children of our Heavenly Father through this valley of sin and sorrow until that day comes when we celebrate, both this upcoming Easter and the eternal feast of the Lamb of God. Amen.
Peace in Christ, Pastor Lieske