Lenten Study

Lent is the period of the Christian liturgial year from Ash Wednesday through Holy Thursday. It is a time of repentance, fasting and preparation for the coming of Easter, and a time for self-examination and reflection. In the early church, Lent was a time to prepare new converts for baptism.

The use of ashes related to repentance and sorrow has a long history in Jewish and Christian practice, but the specific use of ashes on the forehead related to the beginning of Lent only began around the 10th century and was widespread by the 11th century. It is nto a completely ancient practice and is perhaps a result of a shift in emphasis of Lent from preparation for baptism to the journey of penitents to get good standing in the church once again.

John 3:16 close view.

Our church has a Lenten study program every year. We meet in members' homes as a reminder of Jesus going into homes to teach and minister to the people.

2016 Lenten Study

There are two programs: Bible study on Sunday nights, five weeks studying the book of Isaiah, and Lenten study on Thursday nights using John Maxwell's Partners in Prayer. Pastor LaMont said that this book "... is the first book I would recommend the congregation read. Using Psalm 25:4-5, John Maxwell describes how prayer changes us. First God shows us his ways. Then God teaches us how to follow his path and last of all God continues to guide us. So with the Bible as a primary resource and this book as your secondary resource your prayer power is strengthened."

The United Methodist Church has a number of resources for Lent and Easter, including some suggestions for Lenten reading.

Bill Cromwell and Skip Lambdin in a Lenten study group.
Bill Cromwell and Skip Lambdin in a Lenten study group.

The original name for the period was the Greek Τεσσαρακοστή or Tessarakostē, meaning the "Fortieth Day" before Easter (Sundays not being counted as each is a "mini-Easter"). In the late Middle Ages, when sermons began to be given in the local languages, Germanic-speaking areas came to use a word referring to the noticably increasing length of the days during this season — Lenz in German or Lente in Dutch.

The forty days of Lent represent the time Jesus spent in the wilderness resisting the temptations of the devil.

Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he was tempted by the Devil for forty days. In all that time he ate nothing, so that he was hungry when it was over.

The Devil said to him, "If you are God's Son, order this stone to turn into bread."

But Jesus answered, "The scripture says, 'Human beings cannot live on bread alone.'"

Then the Devil took him up and showed him in a second all the kingdoms of the world. "I will give you all this power and all this wealth," the Devil told him. "It has all been handed over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose. All this will be yours, then, if you worship me."

Jesus answered, "The scripture says, 'Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!'"

Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, "If you are God's Son, throw yourself down from here. For the scripture says, God will order his angels to take good care of you. It also says, They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones."

But Jesus answered, "The scripture says, 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

When the Devil finished tempting Jesus in every way, he left him for a while.

Then Jesus returned to Galilee, and the power of the Holy Spirit was with him. The news about him spread throughout all that territory. He taught in the synagogues and was praised by everyone.

Luke 4:1-15 (Good News Translation)

The Back Door study group discussed C. S. Lewis' take on the Lenten season:

The Lenten Season is devoted to what theologians call "contrition". During Lent, we often hear prayers in one form or another that ask God to give us contrite hearts. Contrite, translated from Latin, means crushed or pulverized. We are expected to feel contrition because we are "Miserable Offenders" against God's law.

Many modern people may complain that they do not want their hearts to be pulverized — they prefer to have their hearts soar as free spirits. Furthermore, they may feel unjustly accused and even insulted that the Christians have labeled them as "Miserable Offenders". Do you sometimes feel this way?

C. S. Lewis addresses this issue in another short essay entitled "Miserable Offenders".

Members played roles in our Maundy Thursday program. Back row, left to right:

And in front, left to right:

Maundy Thursday program: Salome, Simon Peter, wine bearer, Mary, Mary, Roman soldier.

Salome, a follower of Jesus, שלומיה or Shelomit in Hebrew, appears only briefly in the canonical gospels. She is mentioned much more frequently in the Apocrypha.

Salome is easily confused with the daughter of Herodias and stepdaughter of Herod Antipas, who danced for Herod on his birthday. Her mother Herodias had a grudge against John the Baptist for saying that her marriage to Herod was unlawful, and so she asked her daughter to ask for John's execution in return for the dance (see Mark 6:21-29 or Matthew 14:6-11). That woman isn't named in the Bible, but Flavius Josephus names her as Σαλωμη or Salome and provides more details on her family relations in his Antiquities of the Jews. Much more recently she has been the subject of many painters, a play by Oscar Wilde, operas by Richard Strauss and Antoine Mariotte, and many songs including ones by Kim Wilde, Liz Phair, Patti Smith, U2 and the Rolling Stones.

The program was based on Mark's narrative of Jesus' burial and resurrection:

Some women were there [at the crucifixion], looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of the younger James and of Joseph, and Salome. They had followed Jesus while he was in Galilee and had helped him. Many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him were there also.

It was toward evening when Joseph of Arimathea arrived. He was a respected member of the Council, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God. It was Preparation day (that is, the day before the Sabbath), so Joseph went boldly into the presence of Pilate and asked him for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead. He called the army officer and asked him if Jesus had been dead a long time. After hearing the officer's report, Pilate told Joseph he could have the body. Joseph bought a linen sheet, took the body down, wrapped it in the sheet, and placed it in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock. Then he rolled a large stone across the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph were watching and saw where the body of Jesus was placed.

After the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices to go and anoint the body of Jesus. Very early on Sunday morning, at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they said to one another, "Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?" (It was a very large stone.) Then they looked up and saw that the stone had already been rolled back. So they entered the tomb, where they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe — and they were alarmed.

"Don't be alarmed," he said. "I know you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is not here — he has been raised! Look, here is the place where he was placed. Now go and give this message to his disciples, including Peter: He is going to Galilee ahead of you; there you will see him, just as he told you."

Mark 15:40-16:7 (Good News Translation)