Washington (BWA)--Christians throughout history have utilized a systematic schedule to observe significant parts of the gospel story. Early believers worshipped together in their synagogues and homes, and much of their practices were the same, with the addition of the Lord's Supper.
Scriptures were read, songs were sung, and prayers were prayed as they gathered regularly. The celebrations of the Jewish calendar were still engrained in their culture. As the church grew these common practices took on new significance. Passover was replaced by the Easter celebration. Pentecost was taken from the Jewish festival of "First fruits."
Church leaders in the early centuries sought ways to insure that the entire history of God's revelation in Christ was celebrated. This is how the "Church Year" or "Liturgical Calendar" was formed. This continued for centuries and survived the Reformation. Different traditions have adapted some of these practices based upon their specific theology and ideology. Some have rejected many of the ideas of the church calendar based on a need to have a more complete break during the Reformation or based on a particular understanding of scriptures such as Gal. 4: 9-11, that seems to discourage the observance of some ancient seasons of the year.
Baptists around the world have fallen into both camps. A majority will observe Advent in preparation for Christmas. Most will observe Holy Week as it culminates in the Easter explosion of joy! The observance of Lent is not as common.
Lent is the season of preparation for Easter. Specifically, it is the 40 days preceding Easter, excluding Sundays. The number 40 has significant Biblical meaning for periods of time. (Jesus' 40 days of fasting and temptation; Israel's 40 years in the wilderness). It is a time of reflection, confession and renewed awareness of what Christ has done to redeem the world. It brings the gospel story to its most holy moment - Resurrection!
Lenten practices usually include more time in prayer focusing on confession, repentance and God's forgiveness, and how we live that out in our daily lives. For many, fasting and forms of self denial are also observed. Fasting can remind us of our real need for Christ as the "Bread of Life." As we fast, we can ask God to remind us that our real hunger and thirst needs to be for Him. (John 6:35).
Many Baptist congregations celebrate Lent publically. Most spend time in prayer seeking forgiveness and a fresh encounter with God as Easter approaches. Let us recognize the opportunities we have this Lent to join with other believers in a time of reflection, confession, repentance and a renewed sense of hungering and thirsting for God to provide us with the substance of His grace which empowers us to serve Him more fully!