Lent begins on February 18th. It is the forty day season of the church calendar leading up to Easter. “Lent. It is a season to slowly prepare our souls. It is a time to open ourselves to the presence of God in our lives and let the angels feed us. It is a time to sit among the ashes, confident that love will abound in due time. It is a time to be washed by or tears into the water of new life, to come to real transformation and newness ready to celebrate the feast that is given us at Easter.” (God for Us)
During Lent this year, City Church will focus on the historic Seven Deadly Sins as a way to guide our repentance and preparation for the new life of God’s Spirit. City Church will explore this theme in partnership with several other congregations in Richmond (Third Church, East End Fellowship, and Christ Presbyterian). Our hope is that a shared theme will lead us into deeper conversation and friendship with other Christians in our city.
The Seven Deadly Sins were first codified by a Roman monk named Evagrius. He was a “desert father”--an ascetic who withdrew to the wilderness in order to better understand and combat sin in his life. Out of his own struggle with temptation he generated a list of sins that the church has used for over 1500 years. Although the specific list has changed over time and the sins are sometimes called by other names, the standard list of sins is: Pride, Greed, Envy, Sloth, Gluttony, Lust, and Anger.
Over the intervening centuries, the seven deadly sins have appeared repeatedly in church history and literary history. Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale explains “Now is it a suitable thing to tell what are the seven deadly sins, this is to say, chieftains of sins. They all run on one leash, but in diverse manners. Now are they called chieftains, forasmuch as they are chief and origin of all other sins.” Recently, there has been growing acquiescence and even celebration of many of these sins. Contrary to 1995 cult classic movie Se7en which graphically portrays the sins through the tale of a serial killer, for most of us the sins are neither spectacular or graphic. They are common, subtle, and insidious. They capture our human experience. They reveal the human heart.
Because Lent is time for taking spiritual inventory and for seriousness about sin, the list of deadly sins (though not explicitly found in the Bible) serves as a useful guide for our repentance. And because Lent is also a time for growth in sanctification and holiness, learning more about the corresponding Christian virtues can also help us to live God-honoring lives.
We have chosen 2 Peter 1:3-7 as a framing passage for City Church during Lent. We hope that you will consider memorizing this passage, seeking to have its truth transform you from the inside out.
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 5 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
Rebecca Kondndyk DeYoung, who has written extensively on the seven deadly sins, explains how they “powerfully articulate distortions of deeply human desires.” And she goes on to show how they have been used by Christians “seeking to live out their discipleship through daily disciplines and by the grace of God.” [Glitering Vices, p. 39-40] Our expectation is that during the season of Lent, through honest self-reflection on the seven deadly sins and through active efforts of supplementing our faith with virtue, we as church will embody greater individual and corporate maturity. In so doing, we will look more like a picture of human flourishing and wholeness.
In addition to our regular worship services which will trace the themes of the Seven Deadly Sins during Lent, City Church is committed to providing other avenues for spiritual growth during the season.
Ash Wednesday Service
- February 18th at 7pm at All Saints Reformed Presbyterian Church (3000 Grove Avenue)
Ash Wednesday is a day of confession and repentance. The service will include an optional imposition of ashes as a tangible sign of our sinfulness and mortality.
Kevin Greene, Associate Pastor at West End Presbyterian Church, maintains a wonderful blog of readings for Lent.
Jennifer Murphy has a prepared a Lenten Devotional for families to use in the time before Easter. She will have copies of it available on Sunday or you can email her jennifer[at]citychurchrva.com. Additionally, Jennifer has put together a Lenten reading plan based on the Jesus Storybook Bible. A PDF of that plan is available here.
Biola University Center for Christianity, Culture, and the Arts maintains a multimedia Lent Project that is both beautiful and beneficial.
Church Wide Family Friendly Event
- Saturday, April 4th at 10am at Grace Covenant
The event will include kid-friendly activities, brunch, and an Easter Egg Hunt. It’s a great opportunity for inviting friends and neighbors to learn more about why Christians celebrate Easter.
The 40 days of Lent don’t include the Sundays because they serve as mini-resurrections. They are feast days when, in the midst of longing, we remember the great victory of God in Jesus through worship and through the Feast of the Lord’s Supper.
Holy Week Services
Good Friday Service
The Good Friday service is a somber service of Lessons and Songs to help us mark the Passion of Jesus Christ our Lord. Join us on April 3rd at 7pm at Grace Covenant.
We will have worship at our normal time--4pm. It is the highpoint of the yearly Church calendar as we celebrate the resurrection of Christ Jesus. Additionally, we encourage you to plan an Easter feast for your family and friends and even neighbors. Easter is a wonderful opportunity for Christians to declare through their words and their celebration our hope beyond this life and this death.
(The image above will be featured on our bulletin covers throughout Lent. Meagan Cinder created both the painting and lettering.)