Lent and Lord’s Day

As the Lenten Season approaches, many will be fasting in preparation for Easter. Fasting is an appropriate way to prepare for the glorious Resurrection of Messiah. From Lent to Easter there are forty days. Matthew Gross writes:

The significance of the number forty in Scripture is hard to overstate. It was the number of days that Noah was in the ark, the number of days Moses fasted on Sinai while receiving the Ten Commandments, and of course the number of days Jesus fasted in the wilderness in preparation for His public ministry. Thus it is an appropriate choice for the number of days of preparation prior to the celebration of Easter.

Lent is not to be for show. We do not put on perpetual sadness. It is as Schmeman writes, ” a bright sadness.” It is as N.T. wright observes, “a present-futurity.” While we mourn the sufferings of Messiah now, we look with anticipation to the triumphs of Messiah in the future. While the Church encourages us to fast in this Lenten Season, we are called to put all fasting aside on the Lord’s Day feast. All Sundays are perpetual easters looking to the future easter of our bodies. Therefore, Lent cannot be continuous fasting. On Sundays, we feast in the goodness of God and in anticipation of the Resurrection of His anointed One.

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16 responses to “Lent and Lord’s Day

  1. Schmeman says that the Lenten life is the “normal life” and those of us who are reformed would disagree (I think)…

    If the Glorified Life, is the ultimate reality, then our present New Kingdom life is one of feasting, not fasting.

    just my thoughts…

    al sends

  2. Not to nitpick Gross, but 40 days was how long it rained, not how long Noah was in the ark. 😉 The point is the same, regardless.

  3. Doesn’t it seem disappointingly American to argue that the best way out of our problems now is to just eat and eat some more? This seems like bailout theology. As American Christians, we need less talk about feasting and more talk about self-control and self-restraint. We understand too well the idea of pouring it on and not saying when.

  4. I am really hoping that Uri jumps in here since this is his post, but some food for thought:

    How many fast days were required (not permited, but required) in the Older Covenant? Now that Christ has ushered in kingdom how many fast days does the Church require (again, not permit, but require)?

    Ask those same questions as to the number of feast days…

    Schmeman, when answering the question of why we still take the Lord’s Supper on a day of fasting almost undoes his whole argument, but I think saves it (for the Orthodox Church anyway) in this:
    “In Christ, all of life, all of time, history, the cosmos itself have become expectation, preparation, hope, ascension. Christ has come; the Kingdom is yet to come! In “this world” we can only anticipate the glory and joy of the Kingdom, yet as Church we leave this world in spirit and meet at the Lord’s table where in the secret of our heart we contemplate His uncreated light and splendor.” The Great Lent pg. 54

    I, mostly Reformed, look at the Kingdom as present yet future. We do not leave this world to meet at the Lord’s Table, but He leaves His place and serves us. I think this may explain our differences a bit.

    al sends

  5. More has been given to the NT Church than was given to Israel and hence more is required.

    Christ helps His people on to maturity. The Old Covenant was for children, infants, the immature. More is required of adults. Jesus requires more than Moses. Moses said, “Thou shalt not murder,” to which Christ adds, “But I say…” and then makes the requirement more strict. More is required of women than girls, more is required of men than boys. So while Moses required several feast days, the NT Church asks for more.

    Jesus is commonly used by many Christians as the great excuse to do less. We argue one minute that we should all be like Jesus and argue the next minute that “Jesus did it so I don’t have to.”

  6. A few of thoughts:
    The question of fasting vs. feasting is redemptive/historical. In the Old(er) Covenant, fasting is connected to repentance. Jonah 3:6-9 attests to this fact. Fasting leads to Feasting, not the opposite. Lent leads to Easter; preparation leads to proclamation (Resurrection Proclamation from the Father).
    In the Newer Covenant, the Lord’s Day is our Feast Day. The maturation of the New Covenant reaches climax in Messiah. All feasts must submit to the one true Sabbath feast. We participate in this Lenten Season in light of the reality and present participation of Christ’s exalted position at the right hand of the Father. Hence, we fast in light of the resurrected Lord, not in light of his sufferings. So, Schememann’s bright sadness can be better understood as sadness in light of the brightness.

    Josh, there may be also some hermeneutical distinctions. For instance, Jesus does not add to Moses, rather, He clarifies Moses in light of the poor exegesis of the Pharisees.

    Pastor Stout, I think you are right to assert that Schememann is operating in a yet future manifestation of the kingdom. In our Reformed tradition (BH, that is) we don’t anticipate the joy and glory of the kingdom, we feast in the glory of the kingdom now. We would say we anticipate “with” joy and glory in the consummation of the kingdom. Schmemann may be right, however, about going into the heavenlies to be served by Christ, rather than Christ coming down to serve us (I believe Lutherans would make that latter argument). Ephesians 2:6 says that we are seated with “him” in heavenly places. Meaning, we are where He is: in the heavenly place seated at the right hand of the Father. If Paul had said, ” we are seated in the heavenly places” (without the “with him”) then it would be appropriate to say He comes down to serve us in light of the New Heavens and Earth motif (Isa. 65).

    Josh, being fat in Christ is a great witness to the poor.

  7. One final thought:
    If I am correct to assert that fasting and repentance go hand in hand, then perhaps there can be a reconciliation between these different corporate manifestation (fasting and feasting). So often we think it is an either/or, but a both-and approach generally does more justice to the Biblical text. I think that though feasting is the preeminent expression on the Lord’s Day (thanksgiving, eating at the Lord’s Table, fellowship, etc.), there is also a time for repentance in the beginning of our Covenant Renewal Worship. It is not continuous (as I have pointed in the article), but it is an initiatory liturgical movement. It is not Lenten fasting, because even this act is on the basis of the finished work of Messiah. We confess and repent, because Messiah forgives us and cleanses us.
    We confess and repent of our sins, so that our worship may be pure and celebratory. We kneel in repentance and rise to feast in God’s goodness. We kneel as sinners and rise to be blessed in the Benediction. The weeping of the night leads to joy in the resurrection morning.
    Ok, back to my notes.

  8. Being fat in Christ is a good witness to the poor, but the wisdom of Jesus Christ turns the conventions of the world upside down. Being fat in Christ means being thin of the body. The only way up is down, the first shall be last (Doug Jones’ teachings at Trinity were such good reminders of this).

    This is why Jesus fills the hungry with good things and sends the rich away empty handed. We commonly want to be the rich that are filled with good things. We reject the Magnificat and we reject the paradoxical teachings of Christ.

  9. Sounds great to me! You know, Pastor Stout and I regularly get together at Hopjacks. Maybe we could all three get together some evening.

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