In the ancient church Lent was a time of intense preparation for those who would be baptized on Easter Vigil, which began the night before Easter Sunday and culminated in the service of baptism at sunrise. The individuals were called catechumens and were required to fast and listen to the catechetical lectures of Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem. Eventually as the church develped and became more institutionalized, Lent became what we know as 40 days of Lenten observance. Sadly, some churches no longer even hold Lenten services because of people’s busy schedules. But the need remains for the church to examine its life of faith and live in a spirit of repentance and renewal.
Here at Christ Lutheran we begin our Sunday morning Worship with Thanksgiving for Baptism. We reflect upon the gift of water and the promises of God we receive through baptism. As Luther wrote in the small catechism, baptism “brings about forgiveness of sins, redeems from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe, as the words and promise of God declare.”
During Lent we may reflect upon the significance of our baptism in our daily lives. Luther also wrote: Baptism “signifies that the old person in us with all sins and evil desires is to be drowned and die through daily sorrow for sin and through repentance, and on the other hand that daily a new person is to come forth and rise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
Here is the paradox of our faith. On one hand, God fully forgives us and makes us a new person in Christ through baptism; and on the other hand we remain a sinner in need of forgiveness and renewal. Luther describes Christians as “simultaneously saint and sinner.” This both/and approach is a distinctly Lutheran understanding of who we are in God’s eyes.
There are still opportunities to gather together on Wednesdays for Lenten Worship. Come join us! Rejoice in God’s forgiveness and reflect upon the gift and promises of baptism.