Did you know that Easter Sunday can occur as early as March 22 and as late as April 25? This is because Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs following the spring equinox. Easter this year falls on April 21st. We at FPCE set aside time on Wednesday, March 6th, to share a meal and worship together. Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, the season of preparation before Easter.
The word “Lent” comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means "spring." According to the publication Christianity Today, Lent is one of the oldest Christian holy day observances: “Like all Christian holy days and holidays, Lent has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c.130-c.200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days”. In 325 CE, when the Council of Nicaea set the date for Easter, it likewise discussed a 40-day season of fasting for new Christian converts to prepare for Baptism on Easter. And soon after that historic Council met, the fast of Lent began to be practiced church wide.
You will not see the word Lent in the Bible. You will not find Jesus telling his followers to pray or fast …or give up chocolate for 40 days. Many in the Reformed tradition, which includes Presbyterians, historically excluded the Catholic practices of Lent because it is not mandated in scripture. This is why many people in our church did not grow up with services on Ash Wednesday and certainly many did not experience putting ashes on our heads on Ash Wednesday.
But what we and many other Christians model our Lenten practices on are the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness. We see how Jesus endured temptation and prepared himself for his public ministry. During his 40 days, Jesus fasted and prayed. And so I invite you to understand the season of Lent as an important time to do what Jesus did, to take concrete steps to spiritually prepare yourself for your on-going journey to embrace the good news of Easter.
LENTEN PRACTICE – Rev. Stefanie Muntzel invites you to explore with her the topic of spiritual disciplines through a time of Bible study, discussion and “practice”. Please join her on Thursdays, March 14th and 28th from 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm. March 14th will focus on the spiritual discipline of meditation. We will gather at the church in the Millheim Conference Room.