The Opportunity for Preaching During Lent

The Opportunity for Preaching During Lent

It is time to turn from the theme of preaching and politics.  We are, as I write this post, in the season of Lent.  In this post I will look at the opportunity for preaching during lent in your church.

What is lent?  For a full definition, look at this article in the Encyclopedia Britannica.   Here are the bullet points:

  • It’s a 40 day period that precedes the celebration of Easter.  The word “lent” is from an old English word that means “to lengthen”, a reference to the fact that daylight begins to lengthen in the spring.
  • Originally, Lent was a period of 40 hours prior to the celebration of the resurrection.   People fasted during this time to remember the 40 hours that Jesus spent in the tomb.
  • In the 3rd century church leaders lengthened the time to focus on the suffering and death of Jesus was lengthened to 6 days.  Sometime around 800 AD the church stretched the time to 40 days, ostensibly to correspond to the forty days that Jesus spent in the wilderness tempted by Satan.
  • Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.  One other thing to note: Sundays are not included in the count of 40 days.

Preaching During Lent about Examination

Traditionally, this period of time is supposed to be a time that focuses on a couple of themes.

Examination of your own faith.   Here are a couple of New Testament passages where the writers challenge us to do this kind of examination.

2 Corinthians 13:5, 6

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test your-selves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?; unless in-deed you are disqualified. 6 But I trust that you will know that we are not dis-qualified.

Galatians 6:3-5

For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

The opportunity for preaching during Lent begins with calling your congregation to engage in this kind of examination.

The Opportunity to Preach About Repentance

Another great theme during this period of reflection is to call people to repentance.   The New Testament word for repentance is metanoia, which means “to have a change of mind”.   In other words, we see our actions and our words in light of Jesus’ life and teaching, and we then change our minds about how righteous we are.

I once taught a class on various facets of the wonderful thing that we call prayer.  Each week we would talk about one kind of prayer, and then commit to practicing that kind of prayer during the coming week.  The next class would begin with a reporting time.  One week we studied confession.  The next week we all reported on our experience during the week identifying our sins and expressing sorrow for them to God.  One woman in the class had followed the direction to use the prayer of David in Psalm 139:

23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

She reported that God answered that prayer one morning and showed her all of her sins., with the result that she ended up on her face on the floor, weeping in sorrow.  She then read the assurances

from Scripture about forgiveness.

You see, this kind of experience makes us ready to focus on the death of Jesus on the cross that we celebrate on
Good Friday.   This is one way you will fulfill the opportunity for preaching during Lent in your church.

Preaching About “Giving Up” to Get

Another theme, which we will explore more in the next post is the call to give things up.  In the meantime, here is a creative teaching about the period we know as Lent.