Why Bother With Lent?

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Did you know the United States recognizes 10 official federal holidays? I’m sure you’re not complaining when school’s cancelled, or a half-day is scheduled for some of these annual observances!

WHAT ON EARTH?!

Can you guess the following holidays by their “unique” description? (Hint: You may want to use thesaurus.com!)

  1. A day that amorous deuces broadcast their infatuation and zeal for their supplementary individual.
  2. Remembering the time when a corpse that had been on timber was no longer in a dark, cavernous place but was subsisting once more on the tertian revolution around the sun.
  3. The first day of the week celebrating one’s muliebrous procreator.
  4. A nocturnal gathering of petite bourgeois donning duds of other psyches in order to obtain saccharin and dextrose.
  5. The anniversary of the end result of labor of a teen girl amongst zoological creatures.

SPELL IT!

Answer the following riddles as the first step in discovering the name of one more annual observance:

  1. What type of house weighs the least?     __   __   __  __  __  __  __  __  __  __
  2. What body part is pronounced as one letter but written with three, and only two different letters are used? __  __  __
  3. Nancy’s father has four children. They are named Lala, Lele, and Lili. What is the fourth child’s name? __  __  __  __  __
  4. What begins with T, ends with T, and has T in it? __  __  __  __  __  __

Now, write the first letter of each word from the answers above, in order: __  __  __  __

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

Not to be confused with lint—the fuzzy stuff you have to pick off your clothes or out of your belly button—Lent refers to a period of time before Easter when Christians prepare their hearts and minds through the physical act of fasting, or abstaining from something in particular.

Based off of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-2), early Christians (starting around the 7th century) fasted for 40 days leading up to Resurrection Sunday (Easter). While fasting usually makes us think of not eating at all, that was not actually the common practice. It began as a very strict observance—you could only eat one meal each day, around sunset. A few hundred years into the practice of Lent, the rules began to soften, with the acceptable habit of breaking the fast and eating around 3 pm each day. By the 1400s, the timetable changed further, eating at noon.

Over the centuries, particularly in the Church in the Western world (also known as “where we live”), Lent was not so much observed as a period of abstaining from food for a set time each day, but rather abstaining from an activity, habit, or perhaps one type of consumable product for the Lenten season.

WHY BOTHER?

So, if Lent is an ancient practice, not specifically found in Scripture, why bother participating in it at all? And are there any benefits to observing Lent? Sure!

First, giving something up reminds us of what Jesus did for us. Not only representing His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness, we more specifically remember what Lent leads to—Easter, which is a celebration of Jesus taking on our sins, giving up His life for us on the cross, and rising on the third day. Everything we do as part of our practice of faith should be to draw us closer to Jesus. And we should regularly remember the unique aspect of our Savior from other religions: He is alive!

Second, giving something up is an act of self-discipline and self-control. This is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit (look them all up in Galatians 5:22-23).

HOW DO I OBSERVE LENT?  

Using BibleGateway.com, select The Message translation (MSG) and search for Matthew 6:16-18 to fill in the blanks:

“When you _______________ some appetite-denying _______________  __  better _______________  ___  _______ don’t make a _______________ out of it. It might turn you into a small-time _______________ but it won’t make you a _______________. If you ‘go into training’ _______________ , act normal _______________. Shampoo and comb your _______________, brush your _______________ , wash your _______________. God doesn’t require _______________ -getting devices. He won’t _______________ what you are doing; He’ll _______________ you well.”

This tells us part of the how about Lent—we don’t do it to make a big show.

Make a sentence from the first six words you wrote in the fill-in-the-blanks above to remember one of the reasons why we observe Lent:

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________

__________________________________________________________.

Lent is about you and God, not about you and your Facebook friends, or you and your classmates or coworkers, or even you and your family.

Getting back to the how, when you give up something you should replace it with something else. That “something else” should be an activity that helps you get back to the why of Lent—something that helps you concentrate on God. The two particular activities that help with this are prayer and Bible reading.

WHAT DO I GIVE UP?

Based on hashtags used on Twitter, the 10 most common “sacrifices” people planned to give up for Lent in 2015 (listed from most tweets to least tweets) were:

  1. School
  2. Chocolate
  3. Twitter
  4. Swearing
  5. Alcohol
  6. Soda
  7. Social media
  8. Sweets
  9. Fast food
  10. Homework

So how do you decide? Well, you could take your cue from something on the above list. But the first thing you should do is pray about it. Ask God what He would like you to fast from so that you can focus more on Him. Some questions to ask yourself may include:

  • What takes up the most of my time that I can live without responsibly? (giving up school or work is not exactly responsible…)
  • How do I spend my disposable income each week? (maybe it’s on coffee, candy, or clothing)
  • Each time I think about spending that money on that item, instead of doing so, how could I refocus my efforts to concentrate on God? Is that practical?

A LENTEN PRAYER 

Read song #623 in The Song Book of The Salvation Army, praying it as your own personal prayer. Ask yourself which verse impacts you the most and why. Maybe consider making that aspect the focus of this Lenten season. You can also listen to Chris Tomlin’s version of this hymn at tinyurl.com/pugbe3f.

Take my life, and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands, and let them move
At the impulse of Thy love;
Take my feet, and let them be
Swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing
Always, only for my King;
Take my lips, and let them be
Filled with messages from Thee.

Take my silver and my gold,
Not a mite would I withhold;
Take my intellect and use
Every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine.
It shall be no longer mine;
Take my heart, it is Thine own.
It shall be Thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all for Thee.

ANSWER KEY:

WHAT ON EARTH?!
  1. Valentine’s Day
  2. Easter
  3. Mother’s Day
  4. Halloween
  5. Christmas
SPELL IT!
  1. Lighthouse
  2. Eye
  3. Nancy
  4. Teapot

LENT

HOW DO I OBSERVE LENT?

practice, discipline to, concentrate on God, production, celebrity, saint, inwardly, outwardly, hair, teeth, face, attention, overlook, reward.

Practice discipline to concentrate on God.

Cari Arias, Curriculum Writer/Editor