During Lent the Church urges her members to fasting, almsgiving, and prayer
Lent is not so much a time of just “giving things up” as it is a time for adding things to our piety that perhaps have been lacking. We should want as Christians to increase our awareness of God’s mercy in Christ Jesus. And we should want to work at reflecting that mercy. Lent then is a time for learning to give a bit extra from the bounty God gives to each of us, and to give more of our prayers and more time for prayer. God does not benefit from these things, and neither do they earn us salvation, but God desires that we trust Him ever more and more deeply, and that more and more we learn from Him to work for the benefit of our neighbors and their needs.
Therefore you are encouraged to make use of Lenten customs that aid you in your devotion, and specifically to make an increased use of the Means of Grace. There God strengthens us to live each day. The Holy Communion is every Sunday at 10:30 a.m., and Bible class for adults begins at 9:00 a.m. (as does Sunday School for our children). If you have fallen out of regular use of the means of grace, and have fallen away from Bible Class and Sunday School, Lent is the perfect time to begin anew. God’s Word, the story of salvation in Christ, His Blessed Sacrament for the forgiveness of sins: these will feed you much more than any other activities. This is true all year round.
Finally, Immanuel comes together for Lenten Vespers every Wednesday evening beginning at 7:00 p.m., preceded by fellowship dinners in the Parish Center. Come, and avail yourself of what God wants to give in His Word, and give of yourself to and receive humbly from your fellow Christians in Christian fellowship.
Liturgical Preparations of Lent
Our liturgical preparation for Easter takes place through three distinct periods or steps. The first was Pre-Lent, the “Gesima” Sundays. The second is Lent itself, the time between Ash Wednesday and Judica Sunday (the fifth Sunday in Lent). The final step is Passiontide and Holy Week, the final two weeks before Easter.
You’ll note that in the liturgy, we continue during Lent to abstain from the “Alleluias” and from the Gloria in Excelsis. The color is violet to signify the mourning of a monarch.
We now use the musical setting from LSB DS I, which is not the main “festive” divine service setting (that’s DS III), and we give up most chanting, singing only the ordinaries and hymns. There are no Gospel processions. The crucifixes, however, remain unveiled and we retain the Gloria Patri (“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son…”) at the end of the Introits and canticles.
Eventually, for the two weeks of Passiontide before Easter, beginning with the fifth Sunday in Lent, the veils come out covering our crosses, and the Gloria Patri will go away totally.
As is the case with all fasting in Christendom, we give things up in order to subdue our flesh and to enhance our joy in them when they return. For the time comes, indeed, when we shall fast no more.
Some Final Considerations About Lent
This season is meant to order our hearts and minds not only by consideration of the terrible cost of Our Lord’s gracious sacrifice on our behalf, but also upon His willingness to be our Savior and to reconcile us to His Father. The entire season, as even our entire faith and life, is observed in the sure and certain knowledge of the Resurrection.
I said above that Lent is not so much a time of just “giving things up” as it is a time for adding things to our piety that perhaps have been lacking. We may fall into the trap of thinking Lent to be a purely penitential season so much, that we might easily just internalize Lent. What I mean is, that we do not make Lent solely about our personal journey and pilgrimage of “me” being cheered and blessed on the way of “me” growing in holiness.
The challenge of a Lenten fast or increased prayer and devotion is to turn outward towards the neighbor, even as we receive great blessings from above. It is always a great temptation, especially in our culture today, to internalize your Christian faith.
What if instead, we remembered the gifts of life and salvation Christ has won for us and gave thanks for them by seeking to share them with others around us – to cheer and bless our neighbors?
What if we engaged with our Lord’s help to make Lent here a season of reaching out to our neighbor and to help with their needs, both great and small?
The biggest need of all our friends and family is the saving Gospel about Jesus Christ, and along with that to receive the gift of the Gospel in a solid, caring church family and home in which they find forgiveness from a gracious God.
Thus, I propose that this Lententide you invite your neighbor, family members who do not attend, friends, or even strangers you meet and talk to, to one of our Wednesday night Lenten services, and to our Holy Week services. Many people in the community would like to know about our Lutheran Biblical faith, and indeed wonder what we are all about in that big, beautiful brick church on Poplar Street.
Lent, especially midweek services, and Holy Week, is the easy opportunity for them to come and hear the Gospel and get to know our congregation – where we preach Christ crucified for sinners, and Christ resurrected for their justification before a Father who loves them and desires their eternal salvation. Here is where a wonderful, loving, Gospel comforted Church family enjoys fellowship and joyful times together.
And friends reading this, if you have not been attending as much lately to the preaching of God’s Word here at Immanuel, I invite you back. We want you to come home and join this happy hospital for sinners once again. Come home, repent, and believe the Gospel.
In Christ Our Lord,