John Chowning, Pastor of Saloma Baptist Church
We are now officially in the Season of Lent during the month of March and into April. Lent, which has traditionally observed in the high church, or more liturgical Christian traditions, is receiving more attention in recent years among Baptists and other evangelical Christians. The Season of Lent, which began in the fourth century church, runs for some 40 weekdays beginning with Ash Wednesday (March 1 this year), running through Holy Week, and concluding on Saturday before Easter. Easter Sunday for this year is a bit later on Sunday, April 16. As an aside, please note that the six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter are not counted as part of the 40 days.
In the early church, Lent was a time of preparation and study for those who were to be baptized into the church on Easter Sunday. An entire body of believers was called to this period of preparation, and many who had been away from the church for whatever reason, were encouraged to return to the church community during this season.
The number 40 relates to a number of events in the Bible – in particularly it relates to the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness as He prepared for His three years of earthly ministry and resisted the temptations of Satan.
Today Lent is observed by many Christians as a time of prayer and preparation leading up to Easter. Some will spend time during this season in self-examination and repentance. In some traditions, Christians enter into a period of fasting on certain days during Lent – giving up certain food, drinks, and other types of enjoyment. Other traditions focus on helping the “least of these” (Matthew 25) by acts of giving, service, and sharing with those in need. In sum, the Season of Lent is an excellent preparatory time in which believers are called to periods of prayer, penance, repenting for failures of the past, and focusing on God’s grace. Lent is a time to prepare for Easter and to live the resurrected life in Jesus Christ to which we are called.
We as Baptist Christians can benefit by taking time to learn more about the practices of other Christian groups. While we don’t need to do something just for the sake of doing it, or to simply imitate the practices of others, the meaning and observance of Lent can really enhance the depth of our understanding of the passion and suffering of Jesus Christ at Calvary and His ultimate resurrection on the “third day…” One way of observing Lent at Saloma Baptist Church is through the daily use of our Lenten Devotional Guides, titled “Empowered: A Guide to Experiencing the Power of the Holy Spirit,” written by Dr. Jim Denison. Daily prayer, repentance, study, and contemplation of the meaning of this season of the year, will give us deeper understanding and application of the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ!