March 5th is the first Sunday in Lent. The Lenten Season is a time when Christ’s followers prepare our hearts, minds, and souls for the observance of the highest festival of the church year, Easter (April 16th in 2017). The season of Lent extends over a forty-six day period beginning on Ash Wednesday (which was March 1, 2017) and ending on the eve of Easter (April 15, 2017). This represents the forty days Christ fasted in the wilderness (fast days) plus the six Sundays in Lent (feast days). Holy Week is the last week in Lent beginning with Palm Sunday (April 9, 2017). Special attention is given to Holy Week because of its significance as a review of the events of the passion of Christ.
In the early church, Lent was a time of intense preparation of baptismal candidates who would then be baptized on Easter. Each church member was expected to approach Lent each year as he or she had done when solemnly preparing for his or her baptism. Lent became, then, a time for each Christian to reflect upon his/her relationship with Christ. This time of inward reflection might include the abstention of certain activities (“giving up” something for Lent) or it might entail devoting more time than usual to religious exercises such as prayer, scripturereading or some type of mission project (“doing something” for Lent).
To encourage our church family to prepare for Easter this year, we are planning to focus on the “Servant Songs” in the Book of Isaiah. The four passages which are typically regarded as the “Servant Songs” are as follows: 1) Isaiah 42:1-4; 2) Isaiah 49: 1-6; 3) Isaiah 50:4-9; and 4) Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12). On one level, the “Servant” in each of these passages referred to an individual servant (s) of the Lord who ministered during the 6th century B.C. when the children of Israel were in Babylonian Exile. Yet, on another level, the servant described in these four servant songs described the ministry of the Messiah (God’s Servant) who was to come in the future. Jesus Himself, who often read from and was knowledgeable of the Isaiah scroll, found in these servant songs a “blueprint of his ministry.” As my Old Testament Professor Dr. Page Kelley once wrote: “Jesus seems to have modeled His ministry after that of the servant in Isaiah 40-55. He saw Himself as a servant sent to minister to others and to lay down His life for them (cf. Mark 10:45)”.
The sermons during Lent will be drawn from the “Servant Songs” in Isaiah as a way for us to get ready for Easter by focusing on the Servant ministry of Jesus. The sermons will include the following:
March 5–Isaiah 42:1-4 (5-9) The “Bring Forth Justice” Servant
March 12–Isaiah 49:1-6 (7-13) The “Light to the Nations” Servant
March 19–Isaiah 50:4-9 (10, 11) The Obedient Servant
March 26–Isaiah 52:13 -53:12 The Suffering Servant
Between now and Easter, I encourage you to read and study the “Servant Songs” of Isaiah. May they prove to be helpful to you and to all of our church family in our preparation for Easter.