On Ash Wednesday, the church marks an important transition, beginning the great cycle of Easter that extends from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost. The season of Lent is not primarily a meditation on the suffering and cross of Christ; this is saved for Holy Week. Rather, it is a season of penitence and prayer, reflection and renewal, all designed to prepare the worshiping community for the remembrance of Christ's death and celebration of his resurrection during Holy Week. More specifically, Lent is preparation for baptism. For new Christians who are baptized on Easter, Lent is a time to prepare for their new identity in Christ. For those who have been baptized, it is a time of self-examination so that they might reclaim their identity as those who have been buried with Christ in baptism and raised with him to new life. Lenten worship is a season for personal and corporate spiritual renewal. It is a time for intense study of God's Word, for meditation, for prayer, and for self-examination. It begins quietly with ashes and build in intensity as the observance of Christ's death and resurrection grow closer. The following entries explore this season, introducing the reader to the meaning of Lent and showing how the Lenten pilgrimage puts the gospel in motion in a convicting and empowering way.
The special nature of Lent as a time of preparation for the death and resurrection of Jesus is expressed in the resources of this section. All the Scripture texts and the preaching of this season as well as the environment, singing, and resources for spiritual discipline shape the personal and corporate spiritual experience of the congregation.
On first thought, it may seem that the arts would not have a role in the quiet, reflective, preparatory season of Lent. But, in fact, it is the quietness and reflection of Lent which gives the arts a role as important as in any other season. For the arts are often able to express and call forth the self-examination, meditation, and reflection appropriate to this season. The following section provides guidelines for the use of the arts during Lent.
The services of this section are presented for worship planners in both the traditional and free chuch tracdition of worship. These services, when celebrated with strong spiritual emphasis, order and organize thepersonal and corporate spiritual experience. A congregation may choose to worship during Lent following these services. Primarily, however, they are presented as models from which a church may draw for the development of their own worship. Adapt these services to the custom and style of your congregation.