WHAT IS LENT? (Not Lint!)

Even though most readers know about Lent, since it begins this Wednesday I want to highlight some basics about it in this post. Called the Lenten tradition, Lent is a 40-day season in which Christians focus on their faith as they look forward to and prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday.

Often associated with Roman Catholic tradition and practice, Lent is certainly not limited to Catholicism as many believers in a variety of denominations and churches participate. While much of what takes place during Lent has biblical connections, the actual Lenten season is not prescribed in the New Testament. As meaningful as observing Lent can be and is for many Christians, not all observe it nor are they commanded to do so.

The first mention of the practice of Lent is found in the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. The celebration of Easter Sunday and Jesus’ resurrection, however, began much earlier. The emphasis upon 40 days comes from the biblical account of Jesus’ fast in the wilderness following his baptism. The time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday is actually more than 40 days, but Sundays are not counted – Sundays are feast days because Sunday is the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

Ash Wednesday and the marking of Christians with an ashen cross was added in the 600s. The usage of ashes underscores human mortality and our need for repentance. Participation in Ash Wednesday is not required in order to participate in the Lenten season. There is no one way to observe Lent as Christians have celebrated the season in a variety of ways.

Simply stated, engaging in Lent is a season of intentional focus on reflection, repentance, prayer, Bible reading, confession, humility, and devotion in anticipation of remembering, acknowledging, and celebrating Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.

Many believers also include fasting as a part of their expression of devotion during this season. Fasting usually refers to eating and food, but is not limited to food. Nor is fasting in terms of eating always a total fast from food. People have fasted from meat, desserts, coffee, soda, and a variety of choices for a day, a week, or the entire period of Lent. Beyond food and drink, some fast from TV, radio, the news, or other activities that they set aside or give up to focus on the season.

Through the years I’ve tried a lot of things during this season to focus and enhance my faith and devotion. Some have been more helpful than others. I’m look forward to beginning tomorrow a book of readings entitled TO SEEK AND TO SAVE: DAILY REFLECTIONS ON THE ROAD TO THE CROSS by Sinclair B. Ferguson. I hope these thoughts have been informative and encouraging.

Feel free to leave a comment below and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.

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PRIME TIME

The phrase Prime Time is used in a variety of contexts. Most prominent, perhaps, is the period of TV programming in the middle of the evening when the most people are watching. Many years ago when we purchased a timeshare (that we finally unloaded a couple of years ago) I noted that certain weeks of the year were designated Prime Time and the rules for using the timeshare those weeks were different.

For the past 45 years or so in my life, Prime Time has meant something different to me vocationally and personally. Prime Time for me comes once a year, but is not the same time each year — it varies. Nor is its length always the same for me; it’s sometimes longer and sometimes shorter. This year Prime Time began for me on Monday.

Prime Time for me each year is anywhere between seven and three weeks before and including Easter Sunday. It was Prime Time for me vocationally all these years because I was serving as a pastor. I never preached the same series, but I always preached a series of sermons leading up to Easter focusing on the life and ministry of Jesus, concluding with his resurrection.

But the reason the time leading up to Easter was Prime Time for me was not just because of the preaching. That period was Prime Time for me also because I always used it to focus on and cultivate my personal spiritual life. Preparing to preach was part of it, but certainly not all of it.

This year will be the fourth Easter since I retired after 30 years as pastor of Discovery Christian Church. It will be the fourth year I haven’t prepared a sermon series leading up to Easter or preached on Easter Sunday. And I am fine with that. Preparing sermons and preaching is a great joy and privilege, but it is also a lot of work!

I haven’t prepared a series or preached on Easter the past three years, but I have maintained my practice of focusing on and cultivating my personal spiritual life. I started reading the Gospel of Mark on Monday thinking if I read a chapter a day five days a week I would read about the crucifixion (chapter 15) on Good Friday and the resurrection (chapter 16) on Saturday or Sunday.

If you don’t have a plan for this year’s Prime Time I invite, challenge, and encourage you to join me. One chapter a day five days a week of Bible reading doesn’t take long, but can be very rewarding—especially during Prime Time!

(Let me know below if you are going to join me in reading Mark these three weeks and/or share this post on Facebook or other social media.)

 

 

 

ARE YOU GOING TO SEE RISEN?

With a few exceptions, I have been disappointed the last several years with the movies I have seen based upon the Bible. If you saw Noah and/or Exodus: Gods and Kings you know what I mean. If you didn’t see them you were wise not to waste your time or spend your money.

I saw the new film Risen yesterday and I am pleased to report that not only was I not disappointed, I was impressed and enjoyed it. I agree with both Fox News’ reporter Todd Starnes who proclaimed “It’s a miracle! Hollywood finally tells a great Bible story” and Christianity Today’s chief film critic Alissa Wilkinson who reported it “is not quite like any film based on the Bible that I’ve seen before.”

As the title indicates, Risen is about Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday following His Good Friday crucifixion. Others may not agree with me, but I thought the movie was biblical, realistic, inspirational, and touching. It cost me $21.50 for my ticket, diet coke, popcorn, and candy; but the $8.25 for the ticket was worth it as was the time it took to see it. (Note I did not say the diet coke, popcorn, and candy was worth $13.25).

Was the movie perfect? No. No movie made from a book or novel will be perfect. Think about some of the movies you have seen that were made from a novel. I remember years ago reading Jaws and then how surprised I was when I saw the movie. The movie was not like I had imagined it would be based upon reading the novel.

Does Risen add to the Bible’s account? Yes. Is what it adds speculative. Yes. To make a movie from the Bible requires that some speculative addition be made. Risen tells the story of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead through a Roman tribune soldier named Clavius who was Pilate’s right hand man. His assignment is to find the corpse of the crucified Nazarene so they can refute the rumor that He rose from the dead.

Of course there is no Clavius in the Gospel accounts, but Matthew 27:62-64 does tell us the chief priests and the Pharisees were aware that before His death Jesus said He would rise again. Those verses also tell us the religious leaders were afraid Jesus’ disciples would steal His body and tell people He had risen. And Matthew 28:11-15 tells us the chief priests paid the soldiers to lie about what happened. In the movie almost everything Clavius deals with from Jesus’ death to His ascension has some basis in the Gospels. That is why I said above the film is realistic.

In the midst of a lot of biblical material in the movie, there are a few dislocations of sayings in terms of where they appear in the Bible. I can live with that as I was pleased to see so much Bible in the story’s speculation and additions. I don’t know if any Roman soldiers became believers after Jesus’ resurrection and before His ascension. But I do know that when Jesus died some soldiers remarked, “Surely he was the Son of God!” And Acts 10 tells us about a centurion name Cornelius who later became a Christian.

You have to decide for yourself if you want to see this movie. Having seen it I can say it was not totally satisfying, but it was worth seeing.

Reply with comments below and share this post with others who may be interested.

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