Across the Pastor’s Desk: Embark on 40-day journey of Lent

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, February 21, 2019

Across the Pastor’s Desk by Matthew Lehman


Let’s see. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights, causing the great flood that covered the earth; nevertheless, God kept Noah, his family and animals safe in the ark. Moses remained on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights in the presence of God, receiving the law written on two tablets of stone. The Israelites ate manna and quail and drank water from the rock, while they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. King David reigned over Israel for 40 years. Jonah, the reluctant prophet, announced judgment on the great city of Nineveh to begin in 40 days. Jesus fasted in the wilderness for 40 days, ending in his temptation by Satan, which Jesus withstood those temptations for us. Unquestionably, the number 40 is evident in Bible narratives.

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Even in our culture, being 40 years old recollects numerous associations, many not viewed as positive or joyful. Birthdays, aches and pains, midlife crises, psychological, are just a few of the obvious examples.

For centuries, the Christian church has made use of the number 40. Most significantly, the period of 40 days preceding Easter, less the Sundays, have been set aside as the season of Lent. Historically, this spring season of the spiritual life was the period of confirmation and initiation into the Christian faith for new believers. The season culminated in baptisms occurring as part of the Easter Vigil, the Saturday before Easter, and full initiation into the sacramental life of the church.

The Christian congregations in and around Albert Lea, too, will celebrate this “40.” On March 6, Ash Wednesday marks the start of these 40 days of Lent, highlighted by midweek worships and various changes in worship practice, which are by nature more penitential and solemn. The Lenten season, known as spring, is an opportunity to yield new personal growth in our spiritual lives.

Consider investing time in some aspect of worship at your church that is distinctively meaningful for you. Join your church’s choir, instrumental group or praise band. These groups are open to those persons desiring to praise God in song. Attend a Bible class of your choice, whether it be on Sunday morning or an  evening during the week, at church, home or a coffee shop. Have a family devotional time at the supper table. Engage in public service to the community you live in Jesus’ name, both from within your church family and beyond. If you do not have a church home, our congregations welcome you with open arms to partner with us in serving our neighbors and God!

While there is nothing sacramental about the number 40 or Lenten observances, there is great scriptural precedence to appreciate their rich implications. Blessed are we with the opportunity to be renewed in our eternal walk with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, as we journey with him to the cross and the empty tomb. God be with you as you embark on this journey with Christians, locally and around the world, during this upcoming 40 days of Lent!

Matthew L. Lehman is pastor of Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lea.