The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. As early as the mid-fourth century, Christians have observed this time of preparation before the Easter celebration.
The 40 days of Lent recall the 40-day fast of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2) and Moses’ 40-day fast on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). It is a time of simplicity, renewal and preparation in congregations, especially preparation for baptisms that will occur at the Easter Vigil.
The time of gathering at the opening of the worship service in the season of Lent may reflect the simple nature of the season using only the Kyrie and no hymn of praise. That simplicity may also be reflected within the worship space by removing clutter, removing or replacing fresh floral arrangements with dried branches, or taking down decorative banners.
Mid-week Lenten worship services present the opportunity to emphasize and expand upon Lenten lectionary themes of God’s mercy and forgiveness. The daily lectionary provides a series of biblical texts that complement the Sunday readings and can be found beginning on page 1121 of “Evangelical Lutheran Worship.”
The daily texts for Monday through Wednesday reflect back on the previous Sunday, while Thursday through Saturday’s texts anticipate the coming Sunday. Each Wednesday, a reading from one of the four Gospels is provided.
The Sundays and Seasons resources from Augsburg Fortress suggest a mid-week Lenten set of readings for Evening Prayer that highlights the Sunday Lenten lectionary themes by repeating one of the Sunday readings for each mid-week service and suggesting complementary hymns.
Additionally, Sundays and Seasons suggests themes for the series of midweek worship. These series themes focus on particular events in Christ’s journey to the cross and the spiritual insight therein. Each week provides visual and tactile suggestions that may enhance the proclamation of the Gospel. Sundays and Seasons resources are available in print from Augsburg Fortress or online.
“Go in peace. Remember the poor.” Lent is a time to reflect on our baptismal call to participate in God’s mission in the world. With this worship service dismissal, the congregation is sent into the world reminded both of the peace of Christ and of the need for Christ’s reconciling presence in the hurting places of the world. This dismissal urges the worshiping community to live out their baptismal call to participate in Christ’s mission with their own thoughts and actions.
In the announcements of the congregation, highlight local ministry opportunities that serve people who are hungry, marginalized or oppressed. Invite the congregation to participate in ministries that advocate on behalf of those who struggle.
Alternatively, encourage the youth of the congregation to research and create displays located at the exit doors of the worship space that focus on the ministries of Lutheran World Relief each week to make the connection between worship and mission.