The Discipline of Lent


As we approach the beginning of Lent (Ash Wednesday is March 1st this year), I am beginning to mention the history of Lent and referring to it as a season of repentance, fasting, prayer, and works of love (almsgiving). I’m also starting to hear the old-saw response from some Lutherans. Here’s a note from Bill as an example:

This is in no way Lutheran!!!!!!!!! We are saved by God’s GRACE not WORKS of discipline. We cannot cleanse our own hearts.
I would like to know who is responsible for this error so that I can speak to them.
I’ll post my response to Bill as an open letter.
Dear Mr. Lindeman,
You are correct. Lent is not about our giving up something to somehow please God by our good work.  Lent is about what Jesus Christ gave up to pay the penalty for the sins of the world — His holy and innocent life. This is the message of the Gospel.
 
If during Lent Christians choose to give up something or rededicate themselves to helping those in need as a way to proclaim the salvation Christ has won for all by His suffering and death, then such activities are sacrifices that glorify God. Yet as you say in your note, nothing we do through discipline, self-denial, or good works can ever earn the Lord’s forgiveness or repay Him for what He accomplished for us.  We are saved by grace.
 
Though the Scriptures do not mention Lent, it has a longstanding tradition in the Church. Though we are not certain how it developed, by A.D. 350 the forty-day fast that we now have was already part of the Church’s practice in most places. Many identify the Second Festal letter of Athanasius in A.D. 330 as the earliest reference to a forty-day day fast leading up to Easter. 
 
For Christians living in the Fourth Century Lent had two major emphases: First, it was seen as a time of repentance and denial of self. All Christians were to examine their lives according to the Ten Commandments and other Christian ethical precepts and repent where necessary. They were to remember what it cost their Savior to save them, The second emphasis of Lent was as a time of instruction and preparation for those who wanted to become members of the Christian Church, i.e., the catechumens. During Lent they learned the Christian doctrine by studying the Creed. They were led step by step through prayer and special rites toward baptism. The instruction of the catechumen led to baptism and receiving the Lord’s Supper in the service on Easter.
 
At the time of the Reformation, some Christians wanted to eliminate Lent since Scripture didn’t command it. Luther, however, urged that it be kept, for he saw Lent as an opportunity for the strengthening of faith. “Lent, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week shall be retained, not to force anyone to fast, but to preserve the Passion history and the Gospels appointed for that season” (Luther’s Works AE, 53:90). Here Luther instructs that Lent should be preserved, in part, because it reminded Christians of the Passion (suffering and death) of Jesus and encouraged them to meditate upon it. However, no one should be forced to participate. It should be voluntary.
 
Lutherans retain Lent to this day, because we see it as a salutary outward discipline that gives Christians a wonderful opportunity for spiritual renewal. As Lent begins, we are invited to struggle against everything that leads us away from love of God and love of neighbor by exercising the discipline of Lent: repentance, fasting, prayer and works of love (almsgiving). These may become specific occasions and opportunities for spiritual renewal during this season of renewal as we come face to face with the sin that hinders our walk with Christ. Living out a discipline takes our Lord’s words about self-denial seriously (Matthew 16:24). In the Lenten discipline, we come face to face with the Gospel of Jesus Christ as we focus (or refocus) on His self-sacrificing passion, death and resurrection, which has brought us acceptance, forgiveness and redemption by God. Through that same discipline, we make a loving response to God who gives us the power to live anew.
Blessed Lent,
Pastor Scot Kinnaman
And to you too, dear blog reader, my prayer is that you have a blessed Lent and a joyous Easter celebration.
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Lenten Catechesis—Saturday of Lent 2


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The Creed – The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.   Amen.

The Spirit has His own congregation in the world, which is the mother that conceives and bears every Christian through God’s Word [Galatians 4:26]. Through the Word He reveals and preaches, He illumines and enkindles hearts, so that they understand, accept, cling to, and persevere in the Word [1 Corinthians 2:12].

Where the Spirit does not cause the Word to be preached and roused in the heart so that it is understood, it is lost [Matthew 13:19].… For where Christ is not preached, there is no Holy Spirit who creates, calls, and gathers the Christian Church, without which no one can come to Christ the Lord.
—Large Catechism, Part 2:42, 45

In this Christian Church we have forgiveness of sin, which is wrought through the holy Sacraments and Absolution [Matthew 26:28; Mark 1:4; John 20:23] and through all kinds of comforting promises from the entire Gospel. Therefore, whatever ought to be preached about the Sacraments belongs here. In short, the whole Gospel and all the offices of Christianity belong here, which also must be preached and taught without ceasing. God’s grace is secured through Christ [John 1:17], and sanctification is wrought by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word in the unity of the Christian Church. Yet because of our flesh, which we bear about with us, we are never without sin. [Romans 7:23-24.]
—Large Catechism, Part 2:54

The Holy Spirit carries on His work without ceasing to the Last Day. For that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church [Christenheit] [John 10:16] or granted all forgiveness. Therefore, we believe in Him who daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church through the Word. Through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins He bestows, increases, and strengthens faith. So when He has done it all, and we abide in this and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy. Even now we expect this in faith through the Word.
—Large Catechism, Part 2:61-62

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.

Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Friday of Lent 2


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The Creed – The Third Article

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.   Amen.

Through this article the Holy Spirit, with His office, is declared and shown: He makes people holy…. There are many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, such as the spirit of man [1 Corinthians 2:11], heavenly spirits [Hebrews 12:23], and evil spirits [Luke 7:21]. But God’s Spirit alone is called the Holy Spirit, that is, He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. …

The Holy Spirit causes our sanctification by the following: the communion of saints or the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. That means He leads us first into His holy congregation and places us in the bosom of the Church. Through the Church He preaches to us and brings us to Christ.

… [For] Christ has acquired and gained the treasure for us by His suffering, death, resurrection, and so on [Colossians 2:3]. But if the work remained concealed so that no one knew about it, then it would be useless and lost. So that this treasure might not stay buried, but be received and enjoyed, God has caused the Word to go forth and be proclaimed. In the Word He has the Holy Spirit bring this treasure home and make it our own. Therefore, sanctifying is just bringing us to Christ so we receive this good, which we could not get ourselves.
—Large Catechism, Part 2:35-38

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Thursday of Lent 2


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The Creed – The Second Article

And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Let this, then, be the sum of this article: the little word Lord means simply the same as redeemer. It means the One who has brought us from Satan to God, from death to life, from sin to righteousness, and who preserves us in the same. But all the points that follow in this article serve no other purpose than to explain and express this redemption. They explain how and by whom it was accomplished. They explain how much it cost Him and what He spent and risked so that He might win us and bring us under His dominion. It explains that He became man [John 1:14], was conceived and born without sin [Hebrews 4:15], from the Holy Spirit and from the virgin Mary [Luke 1:35], so that He might overcome sin. Further, it explains that He suffered, died, and was buried so that He might make satisfaction for me and pay what I owe [1 Corinthians 15:3-4], not with silver or gold, but with His own precious blood [1 Peter 1:18-19]. And He did all this in order to become my Lord. He did none of these things for Himself, nor did He have any need for redemption. After that He rose again from the dead, swallowed up and devoured death [1 Corinthians 15:54], and finally ascended into heaven and assumed the government at the Father’s right hand [1 Peter 3:22]. He did these things so that the devil and all powers must be subject to Him and lie at His feet [Hebrews 10:12-13] until finally, at the Last Day, He will completely divide and separate us from the wicked world, the devil, death, sin, and such [Matthew 24:31-46; 13:24-30, 47-50].
… Yes, the entire Gospel that we preach is based on this point, that we properly understand this article as that upon which our salvation and all our happiness rests. It is so rich and complete that we can never learn it fully.
—Large Catechism, Part 2:31, 33

 

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Wendnesday of Lent 2


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The Creed – The Second Article

And [I believe] in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day He rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead.

Here we learn to know the Second Person of the Godhead.… We see how He has completely poured forth Himself [Matthew 26:28] and withheld nothing from us [2 Corinthians 8:9].
—Large Catechism, Part 2:26

When we had been created by God the Father and had received from Him all kinds of goods, the devil came and led us into disobedience, sin, death, and all evil [Genesis 3]. So we fell under God’s wrath and displeasure and were doomed to eternal damnation, just as we had merited and deserved. There was no counsel, help, or comfort until this only and eternal Son of God—in His immeasurable goodness—had compassion upon our misery and wretchedness. He came from heaven to help us [John 1:9]. So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell’s jaws, has won us, has made us free [Romans 8:1-2], and has brought us again into the Father’s favor and grace. He has taken us as His own property under His shelter and protection [Psalm 61:3-4] so that He may govern us by His righteousness, wisdom, power, life, and blessedness.
—Large Catechism, Part 2:28

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.

Lenten Catechesis—Tuesday of Lent 2


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The Creed – The First Article

I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.

We could say much here… about how few people believe this article. For we all pass over it, hear it, and say it. Yet we do not see or consider what the words teach us. For if we believed this teaching with the heart, we would also act according to it [James 2:14]. We would not strut about proudly, act defiantly, and boast as though we had life, riches, power, honor, and such, of ourselves [James 4:13-16]. …

This [first] article [of the Creed] ought to humble and terrify us all, if we believed it. For we sin daily [Hebrews 3:12-13] with eyes, ears, hands, body and soul, money and possessions, and with everything that we have. This is especially true of those who fight against God’s Word. Yet Christians have this advantage: they acknowledge that they are duty bound to serve God for all these things and to be obedient to Him.

We ought, therefore, daily to recite this article. We ought to impress it upon our mind and remember it by all that meets our eyes and by all good that falls to us. Wherever we escape from disaster or danger, we ought to remember that it is God who gives and does all these things. In these escapes we sense and see His fatherly heart and His surpassing love toward us [Exodus 34:6]. In this way the heart would be warmed and kindled to be thankful, and to use all such good things to honor and praise God.

…This is how much is necessary at first for the most simple to learn about what we have, what we receive from God, and what we owe in return. This is a most excellent knowledge but a far greater treasure. For here we see how the Father has given Himself to us, together with all creatures, and has most richly provided for us in this life. We see that He has overwhelmed us with unspeakable, eternal treasures by His Son and the Holy Spirit, as we shall hear [in the articles of the Creed that follow].
—Large Catechism, Part 2:20-24

Lenten Catechesis from Treasury of Daily Prayer © 2008 Concordia Publishing House.
Used with permission.
All rights reserved. www.cph.org

—————————— + ——————————

TDPDaily devotions for every day of the church year, including Scripture reading, hymn, Psalm, a historical devotion, and prayer, can be found in THE TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER on sale now from Concordia Publishing House.

PrayNowDaily devotions can also be downloaded to your iOS and Android device using the PrayNow app, available from Google Play or Amazon.com.