I grew up in a tradition that did not really do anything with or about Lent. The Canadian prairie conservative evangelicals I grew up around were deeply suspicious of anything that might be interpreted as “not-their-sort-of-Protestantism.” I sometimes wondered what they were afraid of, after all at this remove I think we can say the Reformation was successful. I don’t want to do them an injustice, these people were as committed to a Holy Spirit empowered faith in the God revealed through Jesus Christ as anyone, their concerns were with a set of church practices they could not imagine as being anything other than empty and meaningless.
This did several things for me one of the best of which was the opportunity to encounter Lent in a meaningful way as an adult, reasonably free from a sense of how Lent had “always been done. This freed me to take on Lent, a church practice going back about 1500 years, in ways that were significant to me without feeling I was swimming upstream.
Lent actually begins with Ash Wednesday but as many congregations do not have an Ash Wednesday service for many people the first Sunday in Lent* is the beginning. This somewhat later beginning is why I feel free to give some instruction about Lent on this first Sunday.
The sermons today are intended to give some direction to why we might choose to observe Lent as well as a suggestion or two about how that observation might play itself out. As is frequently the case, I think there are some significant differences between the two sermons so you may wish to listen to both of them. What is kind of fun is that even though they are quite different and, obviously, don’t come from a shared manuscript, the recordings are only four seconds different in length.
Knox Presbyterian And so it begins
St. Mark’s Presbyterian And so it begins
*note that these Sundays are in Lent, not of Lent; there is a more detailed explanation in the recording(s)