“For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.” (Psalm 51:16-17)
Intro to Lent
Lent is the season of the church calendar that precedes Easter—a 40 day period of preparation that always begins on the Wednesday seven weeks before Easter. It starts on a Wednesday because the six Sundays of Lentaren’t counted in the 40 day total; they are considered days of celebration rather than days of preparation.
For the first time since 1945, this year, due to a quirk of the calendar, Lentbegins on Valentine’s Day. (And if you think that’s odd, just wait until you find out when Easter is this year.) While this coincidence may mean that Ash Wednesday 2018 gets buried under an avalanche of chocolate samplers and roses, it has the potential to help us consider Lent in new ways.
One inescapable and ubiquitous symbol of Valentine’s Day is the heart. I can’t imagine Valentine’s Day without Sweetheart Candies, the pastel-colored, heart-shaped candies printed with simple messages like: Luv U or Text Me. Sure, part of my affection for Sweethearts is because they are produced by NECCO (New England Confectionary Company), headquartered in Boston. But those candy hearts also whimsically and simply capture the simple messages of love embedded in Valentine’s Day.
The heart is also the fundamental focus of Lent. It is easy to get distracted by the conventional religious trappings of Lent: people giving up alcohol or caffeine, people fasting from certain foods, or people taking up new habits of spiritual discipline. While all of those practices have a useful role, the real purpose of Lent is preparing our hearts for the message of Easter and presenting our hearts to God.
During Lent this year at City Church we particularly want to focus on what it means to offer our hearts to God the way that Psalm 51 invites us, too. Rather than thinking that God wants some extra sacrifice or offering, we will contemplate together what it means to give Him our broken, repentant hearts.
Ash Wednesday Service
City Church will hold its annual Ash Wednesday Service this year on February 14th, at 7pm, at Beth Ahabah Synagogue (1117 W. Franklin St.). The service is designed to help us remember our mortality, repent of our sin that led to Christ’s death, and receive assurance of the forgiveness that He bought with His death. It will include an optional imposition of ashes as a physical sign of our mortality and our repentance.
During Lent this year City Church is also collating a Lenten devotional to help you practice repentance and prepare for Easter. In an effort to provide reflections that are both beneficial and doable, we will provide a devotional reflection once a week for the six weeks leading up to Palm Sunday, and then once a day for Holy Week (the week before Easter).
The reflections will be written by various staff and members of City Church. They are designed to help us together reflect more deeply on what the passion of Jesus means and how we can cultivate broken and contrite hearts before God. We'll publish the reflections via email, and they will be available on our website. We will also use reminders on City Church’s social media channels to direct people to the reflections, which we hope, in turn, will help us all direct our hearts to Christ.