LAURINBURG – First United Methodist Church and the Scotland County Ministerial Association have joined forces to observe Lent with an annual Lenten lunch service until April 12.
The services have taken place for more than 20 years at First United Methodist Church, according to Rev. Jonathan Jeffries.
The interfaith lunches are a good way for people to come together across denominational borders and focus on what Lent means, Jeffries said.
“The intent is to bring the community together to put the focus on the Lord and to grow in our relationship with him during this season,” he said. “It is a time to deny ourselves as far as our regular routine, to add worship, to focus on bible study or prayer to grow our relationship with God.”
Services are held in the church’s fellowship hall. Each Wednesday a pastor from a different local church delivers a sermon followed by a lunch of soup and sandwich. The cost of the meal is $6.
Jeffries said some pastors prepare special music for the service.
Rev. Vermel Taylor of Galilee United Methodist Church delivered Wednesday’s message. Taylor preached from 1 Peter 2:9 in which the Apostle reminds the churches of Asia that they are “a peculiar people” chosen to bring people to faith. Taylor reminded the congregation that Lent was a time to “prepare a penitent heart to celebrate the journey to Calvary.”
Anna Troy moved to Laurinburg last year and enjoyed being part of her first Lenten Lunch service.
Trou called Lent a “journey of the soul.”
Lent is the 40-day period prior to Easter, not counting Sundays. The word Lent is derived from the Anglo Saxon word, lencten, meaning spring.
Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and culminates on Holy Saturday, also referred to as Black Saturday.
The season is observed for 40 days to mark the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness fasting and praying before he began his Earthly ministry.
Lent is set aside by the church as a time for self-examination, repentance and fasting to prepare for the arrival of Easter.
“Lent is one season of the church that addresses issues ranging from self-image to self-esteem and the reality of sin in our world, the reality of mortality, and the reality of our frailty” said Pastor Duane Hix of Laurinburg Presbyterian.
Sundays are not observed as part of Lent because they are seen as a “mini-Easter” to anticipate the joy of Christ’s resurrection.
“So Lent in preparation for Easter reminds people that there is suffering and sacrifice in our Christian faith as well as the joy of Easter morning,” Hix said.
The Upper Room publishing calls the Lenten season a “tithe of time” because the 40-day period accounts for one tenth of the year.
Many churches hold Ash Wednesday services in which worshippers receive a mark of ashes in the shape of a cross on their forehead.
In Jewsih and Christian tradition ashes and sackcloth represent mourning, repentance and mortality because the body returns to ash or dust when it dies. Ashes marked on the forehead are meant to remind one of the uncomfortable nature of sin and that sin kills the spirit.
The cross reminds the penitent that there is hope in the resurrection.
The ashes themselves are a mixture of palm fronds that have been blessed, burned and mixed with anointing oil.
Those who observe Lent often give up something like a favorite food or beverage or participate in a fast for the season; some give up their time to benefit others. This is done as a personal sacrifice to help the observer draw closer to God.
“Lent is about realism [being] realistic about life and facing our limits as a prelude to celebrating our joys,” said Hix.
Mardi Gras and Lent
Mardi Gras is essentially a secular celebration that arose from Lent.
Historically, Lent was observed by fasting. On the day before Ash Wednesday, which came to be known as Great Tuesday or Fat Tuesday, people would clean out their cupboards and prepare a feast to remove all temptation from the home. Often, family and friends were invited to share the meal; Mardi Gras evolved from there.
Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169