Christopher Dorn holds a bachelor's degree from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan, a Master's of Divinity degree from Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan, and a Ph.D. from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He currently serves as lead pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Ionia, MI.
From the book…
For many Christians, Lent is an occasion for renewed devotion to Jesus, for a recommitment to follow him on the way to the cross—and through the cross to the empty tomb. For good reason, then, the season begins on a day dedicated to themes of repentance, prayer, and spiritual disciplines. We refer here to Ash Wednesday, when we hear the call to repentance and receive on our foreheads the imposition of ashes, a visible mark of this call to us in our solidarity with a sinful humanity destined for death. “From dust you came, to dust you shall return. Repent, therefore, and believe the gospel!”
From Ash Wednesday, the season unfolds over the next forty days, excluding the Sundays contained within it. (Since Sundays are always “feast” days, during which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus from the dead regardless of the period in the church calendar, they are not counted in a season marked by repentance and spiritual disciplines.) It is apt, then, that we encounter the Latin ordinal number “Quadragesima” (fortieth) already on the first Sunday in Lent, which in earlier times was known as “Quadragesima Sunday.” It is a curious convention, however, considering the fact that this Sunday is not the fortieth day, but instead marks a period that is to extend forty days.
Why forty days? The period of forty is significant in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. During the days of Noah, rain falls upon the earth forty days and nights, wiping out every living thing (Gen. 7:4). Moses spends forty years in the desert of Midian in exile after killing the Egyptian (Acts 7:30). The children of Israel wander in the desert forty years before entering into the Promised Land (Num. 14:33; 32:13; Deut. 2:7). Moses is on top of Mount Sinai for forty days before coming down with the two tablets of God’s law (Ex. 24:18). Strengthened by food provided by an angel, the prophet Elijah travels forty days and nights until he reaches Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kings 19:8). To the inhabitants of the city of Nineveh the prophet Jonah preaches: “Forty days and Nineveh will be destroyed,” prompting them to fast and repent in sackcloth and ashes ( Jon. 3:4). Jesus fasts for forty days in the desert, where he is tempted by Satan, before launching his public ministry (Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2).
These texts, among others, can be seen to contain many of the themes that find expression during the season of Lent. The meditations compiled in this book explore these, as well as other themes, in conjunction with each of the six Sundays in Lent. They are based on texts designated for those Sundays as drawn from the Revised Common Lectionary, a three-year cycle of Bible readings used by churches of various denominations and confessional traditions on the occasion of Sunday worship. The three years that comprise this cycle are designated A, B, and C. Because the date of their publication (2021) coincides with Year B, the meditations based on this year’s readings appear first in the series, followed by C and A. This choice of arrangement is dictated by my wish to place into the hands of pastors, worship committees, and lectionary study groups a ready resource to be used in preparation for the current Lenten season. This, of course, is not to exclude individuals, for whom these meditations can serve as a means by which to engage one of the more important Lenten spiritual disciplines, that of prayerful study and reflection. For this purpose, I recommend finding a quiet place, lighting a candle, and reading one meditation per session. Note what thoughts and questions arise. Perhaps afterward, take a few moments just to listen. Then conclude the session with prayer.
My sincere hope is that all those who read these meditations may emerge from the time they spend in them with the sense that they have entered more profoundly and meaningfully into the spirit of the Lenten season as a result. Inspired by this spirit, may we all come to a renewed appreciation of what it means to follow Jesus on the way.