Ideas for Lent
Lent is probably the most misunderstood of all the seasons of the Church Year. The forty days of Lent begin with Ash Wednesday and continue until Easter. Sundays in Lent do not count as any of the 40 days of Lent because every Sunday in the Church Year is a “little Easter.”
Lent is set aside as a time for spiritual renewal as Christians study God’s Word, pray for the needs of the world, and reflect on our need for God in the face of sin and death.
In Lent, Christians are not pretending that we do not know Jesus has already died and is Risen. We know the story. Instead, in Lent Christians focus on the way God joined us to Christ’s death and resurrection so that our sins might be forgiven and so that eternal life might be our future.
Lent focuses our attention on what Christ did in order that our sins might be forgiven and so that we also might rise from death.
Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday / Fastnacht)
This is the day of partying and feasting that gets us ready for Lent, which begins the next day. On this Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, Christian families traditionally ate up all the eggs, meat, and dairy products (such as butter and milk) in the house to help them get ready for the Lenten fast when, before the Reformation, eating such foods was forbidden. Fastnachts, doughnuts, wonderful pancakes and other rich and festive foods marked the “Fat Tuesday” meal. You might like to invite friends over for a pancake supper on that night. (You might also like to invite them to come with you to Ash Wednesday worship. They may never have come to an Ash Wednesday worship service. — See bulletin for further information.)
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent. At church, you can come forward to receive the sign of the cross on your forehead, made with ashes. The ashes come from burning the palm branches we have saved since last Palm Sunday. We ordinarily do this a week or so before Ash Wednesday. Watch the bulletin for details & bring last year’s palms to be burned.
At home you can mark the beginning of Lent by eating hot cross buns. Once these buns were eaten only on Good Friday — but now they are eaten throughout Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday. The cross made of sweet icing reminds us of the cross on which Jesus died for our suns, and the roll itself reminds us of the stone that God rolled away from the tomb on Easter, when Christ rose for our salvation.
Beginning on Ash Wednesday, some families place a railroad spike (or the biggest nail they can find) in the center of the dinner table. Each evening, before saying grace, the father or mother reminds everyone that Jesus was held on the cross not by nails but by his love for us.
Fill a bowl or cookie jar with pretzels to share during Lent. The first pretzel shape was created by a monk who used a simple prayer posture of crossing his arms over his chest and resting his hands on his shoulders as he prayer. Tell family members: “Every time you take a pretzel, remember to pray for the persecuted church.”
The Veils of Lent
The Lenten custom of veiling or draping the crosses, altar and baptismal font is intended to focus worshipers’ attention on the great essentials of Christ’s work of redemption. The draped cross focuses our attention on Christ’s death for your salvation: He gave His body and shed His blood that you and I might receive the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation. The draped baptismal font focuses your attention on the God who claimed you as His own forever in Baptism. On the day of your baptism, for the sake of the bitter suffering and death of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Heavenly Father claimed you as His own son or daughter, forgave your sin, delivered you from death and the devil, and gave you everlasting salvation. The draped altar focuses your attention on the God who comes to you anew every time you receive Holy Communion. In this Holy Sacrament, the Lamb of God Himself gives you His own body and blood to eat and drink, that your sins might be forgiven and you might receive life and salvation. Throughout Lent, the color of the veils is purple, the color both of penitence and royalty. At home, you might like to tie purple ribbons around the house as reminders of how much Jesus loves you.
Fill a bowl or cookie jar with pretzels to share during Lent. The first pretzel shape was created by a monk who used a simple prayer posture of crossing his arms over his chest and resting his hands on his shoulders as he prayed. Tell family members: “Every time you take a pretzel, remember to pray for the persecuted church.
Make small “Hosanna” or “Praise God” or “Blessed is He” (etc) banners for members of your family to carry in the procession on Palm Sunday. These do not need to be fancy and they do not need to be large (6-10″ wide x 2-3′ long, wrapped over a light dowel & hung from a longer pole or dowel) Note: Be sure NOT to use the word “Alleluia”. For a pattern, look in this section under “Banners for Transfiguration Day”.)
Make Baked Apples — The apple is often used as a symbol for the “forbidden fruit” Adam and Eve ate in the Garden of Eden. But even though they had sinned, God still gave them the promise of a Savior. Baked apples remind us of how sin came into the world when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. But God still loves us. The sweetness of baked apples reminds us of the sweetness of God’s promises and of His love for us.
Have a special “Bible Dinner” and invite some friends over to share it with you. Although no recipes have come down to us from the time of Christ, we do know what raw materials were available to the Jews of Palestine in that period, and we know what cooking methods were used. And, of course, the Bible is full of references to food.
St. John’s gospel closes with the wonderful story of how the Apostles had been fishing all night on the Sea of Tiberias — and had caught nothing. All of a sudden Jesus — the Risen Jesus — is standing on the beach, but His disciples do not recognize him. He calls out, “Friends, have you any fish?” When they answer no, he says, “Throw your net on the other side of the boat and you will find some.” (John 21) At this point, John recognizes Jesus, then Peter does also. Peter jumps into the sea and swims to shore where he discovers that Jesus has started breakfast for them all. Jesus had bread and had a charcoal fire going. As His disciples came ashore, Jesus Himself cooked breakfast for them.
With this story in mind, your special Lenten Bible Dinner could have the following as a menu:
Menu for Lenten Biblical Meal:
Broiled Fish, Biblical Style
Pita Bread & Greek Olives
Lentils with Cumin and Coriander
Cucumbers with Cumin and Yogurt
Broiled Fish — Broil the fish the way you usually do, basting with a mixture of olive oil and red wine vinegar (instead of lemon juice, which was rare and expensive at the time of Christ).
Cucumbers with Cumin and Yogurt — Combine the following and chill for 1 hour or more: 2 cucumbers, peeled & grated; 1 medium onion, finely chopped; 1 tsp ground cumin; 3 C. plain yogurt, lightly whipped; salt & pepper to taste.
Pita Bread & Greek Olives — Buy these
Lentils with Cumin and Coriander — Rinse and clean 1 cup dried lentils. Bring 5 cups water to a boil in a large saucepan, add lentils and boil for 2 minutes. Then remove from heat and set aside for 1 hour. In the meantime, saute 2 medium onions, chopped, and 1 cloves garlic, chopped, in 1/4 cup olive oil. When the lentils have soaked for 1 hour, add the onions and garlic together with 1 tsp ground cumin and 1 tsp ground coriander. Cook, partly covered, for 1 hour or more, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are quite soft and the water is mostly absorbed. Add more water if necessary to keep the dish from drying out too much, but the mixture should be very thick. Add salt and pepper to taste. (Note: you can add leftover meat — especially lamb — to this dish. Even the ancient Hebrews had leftovers.
Biblical “Fruitcakes” — Combine 1 cup minced dried figs, 1 cup minced pitted dates, 1/4 cup honey, and ½ tsp cinnamon. Form into little balls. Roll the balls in 2 cups chopped walnuts or almonds, coating them well. (Makes about 20 balls). Note: You can substitute dried apricots for the figs or dates.
Use a concordance to fine where each food mentioned below can be found in the Bible:
Appetizers: almonds, pistachio nuts, cheese
Salad: cucumbers, onions, dill, vinegar, olive oil
Main Dishes: Chicken, barley, beans, wheat bread
Beverages: milk, grape juice, wine
Dessert: raisins, figs, dates, honey
Can you think of other “Bible Menu” dinners for Lent?
Don’t Pass Over Seder! An Idea for Maundy Thursday
On Maundy Thursday, our family always eats lamb.(At our house we make a lamb stew because we’re pretty busy that night.) We do this to remember that Jesus and his disciples were eating a Seder meal to celebrate the Passover on that first Maundy Thursday.
Luke 22:7-20 describes Jesus’ new covenant made at the time of Passover on the night before his crucifixion. At this last supper, Jesus made clear that He was the Lamb of God, given to take away sin of the world.
Passover, or Pesach, is a Jewish celebration which takes place in Spring and lasts eight days. It retells the story of the God’s deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt. The word “passover” refers to the Angel of Death who passed over the homes of the Hebrews who had obeyed God’s command to slaughter a lamb that evening, spread the blood of that lamb on the sides and top of the frame of their front door, and then cook and eat the lamb itself. God had sent nine plagues to force Pharaoh to let the Israelites go free, but Pharaoh would not listen. For the tenth plague, God promised to send the Angel of Death to kill the first born animal or person from every family whose door was not marked with the blood of a lamb. God warned the Israelites to mark their doors, to eat their dinner, and to be ready to leave. Only when Pharaoh’s only son died from the plague would he let the Israelites go free. (See Exodus 12-13)
Passover begins with the Seder dinner, which is a wonderful family event. Seder means “order.” By exploring Passover and sharing the foods that are part of a Seder meal, your family can come to better understand the roots of our Sacrament of Holy Communion, also known as The Eucharist or The Lord’s Supper.
Serve and talk about the following foods, which are traditional at a Seder. These foods are put on a special Seder plate (although and dinner plate will do) and everyone gets a little taste of each one:
Matzoh: unleavened bread, to remember that the Israelites did not have time to let their bread rise before it was time to leave Egypt.
Karpas: a green vegetable such as parsley, dipped in salt water to remember the tears of the Israelites when they were slaves.
Maror: a bitter vegetable such as romaine lettuce or horseradish (you can use a spoonful of prepared horseradish) to remember the bitterness of slavery.
Hard-boiled egg: a symbol of the life to remember the new life a freed people received from their Deliverer.
Shankbone of a Lamb: to remember the blood of the lamb, on the doorposts of their houses, that saved them from Death
Haroset: a tasty mixture of apples, nuts, cinnamon, and a little red wine (or apple juice) to remember the mortar used to make the bricks for Pharaoh’s monuments
The key Maundy Thursday texts are:
Exodus 11:1 – 12:42
1 Corinthians 11:23-26
Luke 22:14 -19 (Mt 26:26-30; Mk 14: 22-26)
(See also Jn 6:25-70 — The Bread of Life)
The dinner can (and should) be very simple: lamb stew, good bread and butter, a green salad, and some red wine — although the pastors don’t drink the dinner wine until after worship. (And we skip dessert, though you don’t have to do so.)
Have table grace. Then, while the family is eating, explain the contents of the Seder plate and let everyone have a little taste of everything on it. Talk about the parallels between the lamb of the Passover and Christ, the Lamb of God.
Some Simple Ideas for Good Friday
On Good Friday, for centuries Christians have eaten hot cross buns for breakfast, and soup with bread (and salad) for supper.
In Greece (and a number of other countries) it is traditional to serve Lentil Soup with a touch of vinegar — the vinegar is added at the table (so everyone can see) in memory of the vinegar that Christ was offered on the cross. Traditionally, Good Friday is a day to be spent in prayer, at worship, and listening to such devotional classics as Bach’s St. John’s Passion. (Of course, if you have little bitty children at home, you’re amazing if you can even find time to make the lentil soup. — The recipe is on the back on the bag of dried lentils.)
Be sure to bring the kids to Tenebrae. Children love Tenebrae. They understand it with their hearts: the darkness hates the Light, and the darkness is strong; but not as strong as the Light . “The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.” (Jn 1:5)
In Tenebrae, many Psalms are sung, and the church is gradually darkened until it is completely dark and the Paschal candle is taken out of the sanctuary (the Crucifixion). In the darkened sanctuary, the congregation prays together The Lord’s Prayer (Faith in the dark). Then there is a LOUD noise called “the Strepitus” (the earthquake and the stone rolling away from the tomb). Then the Paschal candle returns to the sanctuary (Easter is coming. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness could not overpower it.