Pastoral Notes for Sunday, February 11, 2018

February 14th is not only Valentines Day this year. It’s also the official beginning of our Wednesday night Lenten season! That means we will gather at 5:30pm as a congregation this Wednesday night for food and fellowship, followed at 6:15pm by a brief Vesper’s service and a special six-week teaching series.

Leaning on the language of James 4:8 and Hebrews 10:19-22, I’ve entitled the teaching series, “Drawing Near to God.” It is a series designed to help us take spiritual inventory of our lives and to explore key Christian practices for an intimate walk with God.

Drawing Near to God

February 14 – Fasting: Making Space for God

February 21 – Retreat: Getting Away with God

February 28 – Meditating: Hearing from God

March 7 – Praying: Speaking with God

March 14 – Fellowship: Meeting with God

March 21 – Discipleship: Becoming like God

Now, if you’re new to the idea of the Lenten season, please know you’re not alone. In fact, Protestant Christians have for centuries been divided on the practice of Lent. It’s not commanded in Scripture and has been prone to abuse at different times throughout church history. So why would Cornerstone choose to practice Lent despite these realities?

Two years ago She Reads Truth and He Reads Truth, an online daily Bible reading program, asked me that question. At their request, I penned a biblical-theological defense for why a Protestant might practice of Lent. I’m republishing that piece below in hopes that it will explain why we’ve chosen to redeem the tradition of the Lenten season as a time of preparation for Good Friday and Easter. Hope you find it helpful.

The grand narrative of God’s Word through history is more than a tall tale. It is a historical record of real events with real people in real places and in real time. Indeed, as Paul makes plain in his letter to the church at Corinth, if Christ’s birth, death, and resurrection did not actually take place in time and space, then all is lost. We of all people are most to be pitied (1 Corinthians 15:9).

God not only authored the Bible’s true story, He’s its lead actor. Behind the flood, the call of Abraham, the Exodus, the rise of King David, the exile and return of Israel, and every other redemptive act—God is present and the prime mover. On every page of the Bible, God is the hero of the story. As the author and hero of redemption, God calls His people to remember the great things He has done (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).

One of the means God used to stir the mind and imaginations of His people to remembrance was a calendar. From the Day of Atonement to the weekly Sabbath, to the annual feasts and festivals, God calendared salvation history in order to help the prone-to-forgetfulness Israelites relive their redemption each year (Leviticus 23). Rightfully so, the shadow of the Old Testament calendar faded in the bright light of Christ’s fulfillment (Colossians 2:16-17). Although God issued no new calendar requirement for the New Testament church, He gave His people the freedom to order their days while maintaining the commitment to remember the redemption of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:4-9, Galatians 3:1-14, Romans 6:5-11, 2 Peter 1:3-11).

Not as a biblical requirement but as a discipleship tool, the early church began marking the days by the life and ministry of Jesus (Advent to Ascension) and the life and ministry of His church (Pentecost to Ordinary Time). Many Christians throughout the centuries have kept the practice, finding it a helpful means of remembering and connecting to both the life of Christ and the reality of His church, reaching around the world and across generations.

In that spirit, we invite you to join us for the forty days of Lent, as we prayerfully prepare for the heartbreaking and heart-mending climax of the Christian year—the crucifixion and resurrection of our Savior.