Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Simple Church Year Catechism – Lent & Easter

Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lenten Season) is February 13. The season of Lent lasts for 40 days (not including Sundays). It ends on Easter Sunday (March 31).

The word “Lent” comes from the Middle English lente (“spring”) and from the Old English lengten (“to lengthen’), referring to the time of lengthening daylight from Christmas (around the Winter solstice) to Easter (Spring equinox). The Lenten season lasts 40 days, a time of preparation in anticipation of the great events of Good Friday and Easter.

During Lent we are encouraged to examine ourselves anew in the person and work of Jesus Christ. We follow his example and seek for forty days to wage a more earnest struggle against the world, the flesh, and the devil. Our desire in this is increased sanc- tification and growth in Christian maturity and obedience.

At the heart of any worthy Lenten observance is a cultivated attitude of repentance. True repentance means a genuine change in heart and mind, a change of disposition wherever in our lives we need to return to God. That is why true repentance and a true Lent can never be satisfied by mere external observances, no matter how rigorous they may be.

Lent is not merely a time to remember and think about the history of our Lord’s suffering and death, but is intended primarily as an opportunity for serious self-examination and repentance, even fasting (Luke 5:34-35). The high point of Lent is reached on Good Friday, when we remember that our sins led to the crucifixion of Christ.

The color for Lent is purple or violet—a rich color made with the costliest dyes in the ancient world. It appropriately symbolizes deep, heartfelt, and therefore costly repentance.

The following catechism is something I wrote for the children of the church.  It's a continuation of what is posted for Advent, Christmas, & Epiphany.

Q. 21. How should we pray during Lent?
A. During Lent we confess our sins and ask God to help us change our ways.

Q 22. Why does the church call this season “Lent”?
A. Lent is an old English name for Springtime.

Q 23. Why does the season of Lent last 40 days?
A. Because in the Bible God often tests people for 40 days or years and gives them a chance to repent and change.

Q 24. What are two important examples of this time of testing in the Bible? A. Israel was tested for 40 years in the wilderness before they entered the Promised Land and Jesus was tested for 40 days in the desert.

Q 25. Why does God test us?
A. God tests our faith to make us steadfast and mature Christians (James 1:2-4).

Q 26. Why did the church choose Springtime to celebrate the death and res- urrection of Jesus?
A. During Spring the days lengthen and the light and warmth begins to over- come the darkness and cold of winter. This is a fitting symbol of Christ’s death and resurrection because he brought light and life to the world.

Q 27. What does the word “Easter” mean?
A. The word “Easter” is an old word for “Springtime”

Q 28. Why is Jesus’ resurrection celebrated in the Spring?
A. Because when the cold, dark winter gives way to warmth, light, and new life in Spring this reminds us of the resurrection of Jesus.

Q. 29. Why do we use the color white for Easter?
A. The color white reminds us that Jesus’ resurrected, glorified body was pure and bright.
(Second & Third Grade)

Q 30. Why is the resurrection of Jesus so important?
A. The resurrection of Jesus means that all who trust in him will themselves be raised from the dead, publicly vindicated, and glorified at the end of history.

Q 31. Can we deny the resurrection of the dead and still be Christians?
A. No. If we deny the resurrection of Jesus, there is no forgiveness of sins and no hope for a new heavens and new earth.


Anonymous said...

Q. 27 is rather misleading.

The word Easter originated from Ishtar or Astarte which are names of pagan deities.

Jeff Meyers said...

This is silly. This kind of argument assumes that the meaning of a word can be defined by analyzing its etymology. This is almost too easy to refute. Does "Thursday" mean Thor's day? Is Wednesday really, truly, actually Woden's Day because that's what the words mean?

This kind of analysis is erroneous. The meaning of a word is found in its usage. Let me illustrate this with the word "Chapel." What does this word really mean? And why do Evangelical Christians continue to use it? Christian day schools even have "chapels." That's outrageous! Scandalous! Wicked! Don't they know the original meaning of the word "chapel"? It comes from the Latin word capella, and refers to a "cape." And, oh, what a cape it was.

According to legend, St. Martin of Tours once saw a cold beggar shivering at the city gate. Wanting to help the man, Martin ripped his military cloak (cappa) in two, giving one half to the beggar and draping the other half around his shoulders, making it into a capella or a cape. (The letter "c" in this Latin word should be spoken as "ch," according to its usage in ecclesiastical Latin).

St. Martin's cape was then preserved by the medieval church as a relic. French kings would take this cape with them in their military campaigns to insure their success. They transported it in a small, portable tent-like structure that they called a capella, because it housed the cape of St. Martin of Tours. And so, in time, the word capella or chapel came to describe a small building housing a relic or used for religious worship.

So, therefore, chapels are obviously Roman Catholic in origin. People venerate relics in chapels. Protestants that have chapel services must be secretly venerating some relic. We must write letters to our Christian schools, seminaries, and churches that use the name "chapel" in order to warn them of their idolatry. Maybe some of these places are surreptitiously hiding sacred capes as relics.

What's the point? One cannot simply ignore how these words are used today and then point to some primitive meaning to accuse people of being pagan and idolatrous. This is not the meaning of the word "chapel" today. To determine the meaning of the word today, one examines the way the word is used—what happens in chapels—and not the origin of the word.

The same is true for the word "Easter." The genesis of the word itself tells us little or nothing about the meaning of the word today. To know what Easter means to Christians we have to ask what they do and say on this day. The answer is not that they "worship Ishtar or Astarte." Rather, Easter means reading Scripture, praying, singing, feasting, and fellowship—all of which is tied together by a focus on the resurrected, risen Lord Jesus.