Lent is the 40-day period of the church calendar when we reflect on why Christ had to give his life for us. We admit our mortality, confess our sin and remember that the cross provides our deliverance from the deadly wages of sin. As Kristen wrote in Should Christians Observe Lent? Too Much Sin & Repentance?:
“The more I reflect on my desperate, depraved condition apart from the work of Christ, the more I appreciate the sacrifice He made to save me.”
We’ve written much about the Christian calendar here at My Song In The Night, like this guide for worship planners and songwriters, and like Why and How Evangelicals Can Follow the Church Liturgical Calendar. But with the Lenten season around the corner, there is one important point for worship leaders, pastors and church service planners to remember while planning Sunday services during this season:
Every Sunday, regardless of season, is a celebration of the Resurrection.
The early Christians began to gather for corporate worship on Sunday because it is “the Lord’s day,” the day Jesus rose from the grave on that first Easter morning. And why not choose this day? Without the resurrection, our faith is nothing:
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. —1 Corinthians 15:16-19
This is why Sundays don’t technically “count” among the 40 days of Lent (and why there are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, each year).
As Robert E. Webber wrote in Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality Through the Christian Year (p 153),
“Every Sunday is a ‘little Easter.’ Every Sunday of the year is a celebration of the Easter event. The work of the people in ‘doing the Christ event’ through memory and hope is the source for personal and corporate formation into resurrection spirituality.”
Why include Lenten themes during our Sunday services at all, then? Because our gathered worship on Sunday is a model that forms the 24/7 worship of our people. It is good for us to help each other move in the rhythms of Lent when we gather. But we can overdo it, if we don’t keep in mind that each Sunday gathering is “little Easter,” the Lord’s day. His empty tomb proclaims to us, “You will be raised up, too!”
- No matter that we are dust.
- No matter that we are born in sin and shaped in iniquity.
Where Ash Wednesday and Lent say, “In Adam, all die,” Easter and every Sunday say, “In Christ, all are made alive.” We need to rejoice in this truth together, every Sunday.