TiO 45 – Exodus – What is Lent?
The Main Idea
Exodus is a book about freedom, about the people of Israel leaving the oppression in Egypt and moving to the land promised to Abraham. As we look forward to Easter we are going to bring together a few traditions to prepare: Lenten fasting, the reading of Scripture, the giving of Alms, and the preaching of the Good News of our freedom in Jesus as we see it paralleled in the story of Exodus.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: Can you think of something which is a “thing” in society today which just baffles you?
Q2: Can you name or describe a religious tradition that you know about or grew up with that Riverwood does not practice? Talk about it.
Q3: Can you name or describe a religious tradition that Riverwood practices that you did not grow up with? Talk about it.
Q4: Are you thinking of giving something up for Lent? What is it and why?
Dig a Little Deeper
Lent is a tradition which began just after the council of Nicea in AD 325. While a lot of speculation exists as to its origins and how it developed what we know today is that is a 46 day period of fasting which is designed to prepare us for the celebration of Easter. Today Todd talked about some of the origins of Lent and the ideas that Lent represents and which we are going to focus on and adopt during this time of corporate preparation for Easter.
Read Matthew 4:1-11
Coming off of Jesus’ baptism, his confirmation as the chosen-one of God and the start of his public ministry, Jesus ends up in the wilderness for 40 days, fasting and being tempted/tested by Satan. What Todd acknowledges in the story of the Temptation of Jesus is that there is probably no direct parallel to our lives: Jesus was tested because he was the Son of God and because he had to assert some truths about who he was. Clearly we are not in the same situation but there are some truths embedded in the story which we can apply to our own lives.
Test 1: Dependance—who was Jesus depending on?
Read Matthew 4:1-4 again
Q1: Was it within Jesus power and right to create food for himself?
Q2: What was Satan actually tempting Jesus to do?
Test 2: Direction—from whom was Jesus taking his direction for life and ministry?
Read Matthew 4:5-7 again
Q3: Do you think that if Jesus had thrown himself off of the temple God would have rescued him? That is, would God have wanted to and been able to protect Jesus from such a fall?
Q4: What was Satan actually tempting Jesus to do?
Test 3: Domain—who was to determine the sphere of influence that Jesus would have in his ministry?
Read Matthew 4:8-11 again
Q5: Do you think that Jesus wanted to rule the world and to bring his good news to everyone? Do you think that, if he did, that would be an unreasonable desire?
Q6: What was Satan actually tempting Jesus to do?
Having been baptized and beginning his public ministry, Jesus went out into the wilderness to fast. Todd introduced Lent as being a time when we could empty ourselves in order to allow God to fill us. So, as a community we are looking to join together in the time between March 1st and Easter to do a few things, all of which are designed to create spaces in our lives that Jesus can fill.
- Fasting for 40 days: choosing something which is dear to you but which you see has the potential to fill a space which Jesus wants to fill, if even for a time. This fast is not to prove something or to make you more healthy, instead it is a way in which you create a need in your own life which you ask God to fill in a special way during this season. The intent of this fast is to give something up (anything you feel is significant to you) and then during the times when you feel an acute need for this thing, you open yourself up to God.
Q1: Is there something which you think would be beneficial for you to give up during the season of Lent? What might you put into its place?
- Ensuring the your fast is not just about giving something up. Live this season asking the questions we learned from Jesus temptation: Who am I dependant on? Who sets the direction of my life? Who will establish the domain of my life?
Q2: Which of these three things do you have the most trouble giving over to God?
- Connect with the Bible and the Riverwood blog. This ensures that God is your focus and that we are doing this together as a community: none of us are alone. Our daily reading in Exodus can be the starting point for your Bible reading, but it does not have to be all that you do.
Q3: What time and space can you regularly set aside to read God’s word during your day and your week?
- Make it missional. You are going to have opportunities to talk about what you are doing: you’d be surprised how many of your friends and co-workers are giving up something for Lent. Be prepared to have conversations with people about what you are giving up and why—this might also be an opportunity to invite these people to a Riverwood Easter service as many would see attending a church service as being one of the obligations of the season. Also use the Alms Jars that were giving out during the service as one prompter to ensuring that this season of self-sacrifice is not just about you and your pain but that it can be about serving others.
Q4: Consider those people around you. Do you have friends and acquaintances who observe Lent? Think about the casual conversations you might have around the what and why of the season.
Pray together as you consider what your responses to the season of Lent will be during the next 46 days.
To review Jon’s instructions about the Alms Jar, check out this video:
The Depth (for optional study)
In this section we are providing an in-depth look into the scriptures that the message came out of. There are two critical steps in good interpretation of the Bible. First, we try to understand what the author meant when he wrote the words and how that would have been applied by the original audience. Second, we then take the principles that the original author was trying to get across to his audience and we apply those principles to our own lives. You may want to read some of these passages yourself and/or have people in your group read them together.
Matthew 4:1-11 (NRSV)
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”
But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple,
saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”
Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written,
‘Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only him.’ ”
Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.