February 22 - April 8
Jesus’ statement about when you fast (see. Matt. 6:16) indicates that fasting is normal and acceptable in the Christian life. It is a good and profitable spiritual discipline, and the Bible presents many good reasons why we should!
Fox Valley Church is planning a 40-day fast that will begin on Ash Wednesday (February 22) and conclude on Easter Sunday. We’d love to have our entire church body participate. We realize there may be some confusion about fasting, so we’ve put together this quick guide as well as an application section you can use during our 40-day fast.
Leading up to Ash Wednesday, please pray about how the Spirit is leading you to participate.
Got Questions about Lent? Read our FAQs.
HISTORY OF LENT
The history of Lent reveals traditions rich with meaning and is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calendar. Like other Christian holy days, it has changed through the centuries, but its purpose has always been the same: a season for personal and corporate spiritual renewal. Lent includes self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter.
Lent (which means “spring”) is a season of simplicity, a time to strip away the false and allow God to bring the light of truth shine into our lives. This journey begins Ash Wednesday and continues through Easter (though some traditions continue for 50days after Easter, Pentecost). The Lenten season provides opportunity to prepare our hearts for the celebration of the greatest event in the history of the world—the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. While this should be daily, we all know how difficult it is to keep this intensity. So it makes sense to have periods of focus; times devoted to our spiritual lives. It corresponds to the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness.
What is Ash Wednesday? Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the journey towards Easter. We move slowly for the next five weeks, right into Easter. The imposition of ashes is a sign of our humanity, frailty, mortality and our dependence upon God. This practice of imposing ashes began around 600 A.D.
What is the Lenten Season? It is the forty days set apart for spiritual renewal and reformation. Each Wednesday gives opportunity to draw near to God by acts of penitence and prayer, reflection and renewal. It actually began as a preparation for baptism which would take place on Easter. In much the same way today, we take this time for preparation for Easter. Our services include times of silence and solitude, times of prayer and Scripture reading with some singing. We seek to give time for God to speak into our lives. Many use this time to fast from some foods, activities, or a meal each week, etc. Fasting does not make us more spiritual, but it often exposes our dependency on so many things apart from Christ.
Is this a Catholic ritual? Actually Catholics are not the only ones to do it (some Lutherans, Orthodox, Episcopalians, Anglicans, Evangelicals, etc.). The roots for a few days of preparation begin as early as 150 A.D. However, by 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting. The practice spread throughout the growing church in both the East and the West.
What is Maundy Thursday? It is the night before Jesus died on the Cross that he and his disciples celebrated the Passover Meal together. Maundy means “command.” It is called Maundy Thursday because that night Jesus said, “a new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” (John 13:34).
What is Good Friday? Good Friday is the day that Christians reflect on the Crucifixion. According to the Gospels, Jesus hung on the Cross from approximately 9 A.M. until 3 P.M. that Friday. It is “good” in the sense of Holy. For example, the Bible is sometimes referred to as “the Good Book” or “the Holy Book.”
Is this a move away from our Doctrinal Position? No, we are not changing doctrinally at all. We are trying to strengthen our understanding of the great doctrines of the church and live them out more fully. Lenten season gives us time to intensify our focus on God through contrition, brokenness and seeking the grace of God.
Is this for everyone? Yes. This is a journey with Christ to the Cross and Resurrection that is vitally important for our spiritual growth in a fast-paced world. Jesus modeled times of separation to meet with his Father.