Traditionally, the Lenten season is the entire forty-day period during which the church prepares for the celebration of Easter. When it first emerged in church history, Lent served primarily as a time of intense instruction, fasting, and prayer for converts to the Christian faith in the days leading up to their baptism. The practice of observing forty-days probably arose in Alexandria, Egypt in the third century as an imitation of fasts by Moses and Elijah as well as Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the wilderness following his baptism, which was celebrated on Epiphany (January 6) by Christians in the eastern Roman empire. Following the council of Nicea (325 A.D.), the forty days of Lent were shifted to the period leading up to Easter, which became the annual day for administering baptisms in many churches. This pre-Easter observance of Lent quickly became the universal Christian practice. Eventually Lent became a discipline observed by the whole church and not simply new converts.
Lent is a season of reflection and self-examination, of self-denial and repentance, of reconciliation and spiritual growth as we meditate on the life of Jesus and his call for us to follow him as his disciples. During Lent, almost all churches that follow the annual church calendar hear readings and sermons from the gospels, which tell us of Christ’s humiliation and suffering as he sacrificed himself to serve a fallen and broken world even to the point of death on a cross. In those gospel readings, we also hear Jesus’ summons to take up our own cross and follow the path of suffering service for the sake of God’s kingdom that he first followed on our behalf as the Suffering Servant-King.
Here is a short but penetrating article on the reasons why confessing our sins together as a church body in corporate worship and receiving the Lord’s forgiveness is a healing mercy and precious gift from God.
Three Views: Why Confess Sins in Worship When It Seems So Rote?
by Kathleen Norris, John Witvliet (director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship), and Enuma Okoro
The seasons of the church calendar are designed to help us remember and live faithfully according to the story of Jesus’ life and his work for our salvation in fulfillment of God’s mission for the people of Israel and his plan for the whole world. In other words, the church calendar helps us order our worship and life together as a church around the whole story of the good news (gospel) of Jesus.
The new song for worship in November in the 11:15 service at Central Presbyterian Church is “Lord, I Need You.” The refrain in this song is a modern adaptation of the refrain from the classic hymn “I Need Thee Every Hour.” As pastors Eric Stiller and Daryl Madi continue preaching through the book of Philippians this month, this song will help us respond to the word of God with a prayer that we will find Jesus to be our true defense and righteousness (Philippians 3:8-10) and our sure hope and strength who supplies our every need (Philippians 4:11-19).
The new song for worship in November in the 8:30 and 9:45 services at Central Presbyterian Church is “At the Name of Jesus.” As pastors Eric Stiller and Daryl Madi continue preaching through the book of Philippians this month, this hymn will help that word dwell in us richly, for the hymn text is a setting of Paul’s summary of the gospel story that lies at the heart of the letter (Philippians 2:5-11). The tune (KING’S WESTON) is a strong melody by the famous 20th-century English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. This tune embodies the sweeping and regal majesty of this story of Jesus exalted from the depths of the grave to the throne of God and rule over all things. May the Lord through this song encourage us to enthrone him in our hearts and subdue all that is not holy in us so that we may confess and experience him as the King of glory.
Below is a bulletin insert for Reformation Day by Mike Farley, Director of Worship and Arts at Central Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.
On October 31st, 1517, the German monk and professor Martin Luther posted a list of 95 theses that sought to reform the beliefs and practices of the medieval Catholic Church according to the teachings of the Bible. Luther’s ideas for reforming the church encouraged Christians all over Europe to seek major revival and purification of the church from traditions that distorted and corrupted the faith and pattern of life passed on to the church by Jesus through his apostles. Reformation Day is a holiday celebrated on October 31st or the last weekend in October in remembrance of the Protestant Reformation.
The new song for October in the morning worship services at Central Presbyterian Church is “O Church, Arise.” This is a new hymn by the well-known writers Keith Getty and Stuart Townend, authors of such beloved worship songs as “In Christ Alone,” “Speak, O Lord,” and “How Deep the Father’s Love for Us.”
During October and November, pastor Eric Stiller is preaching a sermon series through the book of Philippians. The hymn “O Church, Arise” is a helpful hymn to learn during this series since it enables us to sing many important truths from Philippians and to affirm together in song our calling to live as a faithful people.