Summary: A challenge to draw near to God in the forty days leading up to the celebration of the resurrection.

Dakota Community Church

February 18, 2007

40 Days


Although Easter is the most significant of the Christian holidays it does not enjoy the kind of enthusiastic fanfare afforded Christmas or even Thanksgiving.

Lent is a forty-day period before Easter. It begins on Ash Wednesday.

Where does the term “Ash Wednesday” come from?

In the days when fire was vital for cooking and heat, a major part of keeping house was keeping ashes under control, during times when serious problems arose that housekeeping chore would often be left undone and so a person who was in mourning or suffering distress would often have ashes on their face. Eventually putting on ashes became part of the mourning process. Ash Wednesday is about mourning for the sin which makes the sacrifice necessary.

We skip Sundays when we count the forty days, because Sunday is always about the Resurrection. Lent begins this year on February 21 and ends on 7 April.

Lent is a season of soul-searching, a time for reflection and taking stock. In the earliest days of the Church lent began as a time of preparation for Easter, and by observing lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness.

The last three days before Lent are sometimes called Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), Shrove Tuesday, or Carnival. This stems from the tradition of using up the household foods that would be abstained from during lent. (Fatty foods, meat – Carnival is farewell to meat)

In the 16th century, many Anabaptists discarded all Christian holy days, on the theory that they were Roman innovations. Like many times in Church history the baby was thrown out with the bathwater in a time of change.

How can we use the 40 days of lent to prepare our hearts for Christendom’s most sacred holiday?

What do we do during the 40 days to shake ourselves from business as usual to a more spiritually attuned life?

1. Practice 40 days of self-denial.

The Christian faith is supposed to be about imitating Jesus who said some radical things.

Luke 9: 22-24

And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life."

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.

We tend to want to imitate Jesus in ways that appeal to us; we pick and choose the parts of his life we will emulate based on our own sense of what is really important.

Some think social issues are important so they focus on soup kitchens, and addictions foundations, and AIDS and homeless shelters and battered women all the while pointing out how Jesus fed the hungry. Some are more drawn to moral issues, so they picket abortion clinics, send e-mails about homosexual marriage, campaign against sex education and condoms and point to how Jesus dealt with the money changers and the Pharisees. Still others are more excited by doctrinal issues, they seek to imitate his teaching and scripture use, they hold classes and spend hours thinking about eschatology and Greek and Hebrew meaning.

Here’s the thing, Jesus did not open a soup kitchen, he fed crowds who came to hear him preach on two occasions, he did not fight Roman authority or try to get legislation passed that would keep people from sinning publicly, he did not form study groups or publish any of his vital teachings.

Jesus did fast and pray throughout his ministry. He did deny himself, He did sacrifice all.

Would you be willing to go beyond the comfortable level of self sacrifice you normally observe in order to more closely imitate Jesus; in order to prepare your heart for Easter?

Titus 2:11-13

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ,

How can we use the 40 days of lent to prepare our hearts for Christendom’s most sacred holiday?

What do we do during the 40 days to shake ourselves from business as usual to a more spiritually attuned life?

2. Practice 40 days of self-examination.

It is highly likely that your time of self denial will result in some extra time on your hands. If you give up shopping, preparing elaborate meals, video games, television, web surfing or any number of other indulgences you will likely discover just how much time you waste.

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