We have entitled this Lenten Sermon Series “A Forty-Day Heart Restoration Project” based on Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This preaching guide moves from week to week of Lent between the diagnosis of our sinful heart (Psalm 51), God’s covenant promise to restore this heart (Genesis 9 & 17), to the prognosis of a sinful heart (Psalm 19 & Ephesians 2), to God’s surgical renewal of our spiritual heart (Jeremiah 31), and culminates in Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem to have his final battle and ultimate victory over the Adversary from the wilderness, the instigator of our failing heart (Mark 11). We pray that this guide, created by a team of TPW contributors, comprising both preachers currently serving the local parish and those formerly serving, will be an encouragement to you as you walk alongside your own community during this Lenten season.
- Exegesis of Text Through AIM Methodology
- Key Quote
- Key Illustration (and comment)
- More Illustration and Quote Themes
- Liturgical Elements
The Emotional Response to Lent
The liturgical season of Lent may not be a favorite of the Church. There is a logic to why a large portion of the world makes merry on Fat Tuesday before donning ashes the next day. It is the “festive” in anticipation of the “austere,” the party before the paucity. It is a kind of going away gathering for our sense of security, a security founded on the promise of Christmas and Epiphany, but now threatened by a foreboding sense that something could indeed, will indeed, unravel that security. It is the celebration of a son or daughter today who tomorrow will, as a soldier, be deployed into battle. Yet, it is the necessary way of the journey of faith and the obvious reason for the collective groan.
The Roots of Lent
The season of Lent has its historical underpinning as a “commemoration” of Jesus’ forty day jaunt in the wilderness where thrice tempted by Satan, he resisted. It is a forty day reminder of our own vulnerability to temptation, but unlike Jesus, we have succumbed to sin, not once but thrice, times some. It is also a forty day reminder of our bodily fragility. Biblical theology intimately ties our sin with physical decay and death. The gift of the grave is the gift that sin gladly keeps on giving. None of us are exempt. However, the Church has not viewed Lent as a morbid period, but an instructively sobering one, for ultimately the story does not allow sin and death the last word.
Lent as a Fast
To add to the sobering spirit of Lent, the Church has encouraged its adherents to take measures of personal deprivation. Just as Jesus suffered and sacrificed for us, we ought to give something up for him, a token symbol for his sacrifice. Take away that chocolate, beer, sausage, or Netflix as a means of sacrificial reflection! Fasting from something can be an extremely helpful discipline, especially when the discomfort of being without leads to reflection on Christ, reliance upon him to satiate our desire, and gratitude for his sacrifice. On the other hand, when it is mere religious devotion the “deprivation” is deprived of its intended meaning.
The Preacher & Lent
During this year’s observation of Lent, the preacher may feel like she and her community have been “living Lent” within the desert-like isolation and distress of a global pandemic. We, at The Pastors Workshop, share this sorrowful feeling with you. We have felt the loneliness, isolation, and weight of mortality like the rest of humanity. With loss of freedom, the tragic loss of life, and the ever-present reminder that we are not in control, we have walked an extended Lent-like season; but, we now have an opportunity to redeem these next forty days. Maybe this year the Mardi Gras festivities will for once be subdued, and the celebration can occur oddly enough in Lent itself. In this period of penance and personal austerity, we can celebrate the festive promise that having once endured this season, we will receive a new spiritual heart.
A dear friend of Scott’s recently went in for a heart valve replacement surgery. The preparation for the surgery and the surgery itself were both an ordeal. Unfortunately, for him there was no effective way to replace the valve that did not involve open-heart surgery. We need not emphasize the aggressive nature of such a surgery. The harshness of such a procedure is apparent to most. We would all rather choose the way of catheterization, laparoscopy, or better yet medications, but sometimes the incision through the sternum to reveal the heart is the only way. Lent is an “only way” journey for us in which we face the reality of our diseased spiritual hearts, their desperate need for restoration, and the promise that they will be renewed.
The Method of this Lenten Series
The Lenten series we have provided follows the Revised Common Lectionary, Year B. It is meant to be a reflective guide for you in your preaching preparation for Lent. The series provides you with the collection of lectionary texts for each Sunday of Lent, and highlights a central text for preaching. We provide a set of lenses for looking at each highlighted text that focuses on the AIM of the text. AIM stands for Ancient context, the text through the lens of Jesus (Ἰησοῦς), and our Modern application.
We think that understanding the Ancient or original context of the passage is necessary to inform and guide our interpretation of its theme. We also believe along with the Reformers that the interpretation of the Ancient context of the Hebrew scripture for the church necessarily flows through its Lord, Jesus Christ. Furthermore, we affirm that the role of the preacher’s AIM is to bring the congregation from the Ancient through Christ and to the Modern context, making the message real in our hearts and lives. In addition, we will resource you with themes and ideas for preaching for each highlighted text, including referenced illustrations, and quotes from The Pastor’s Workshop library.
- February 17: Ash Wednesday: Psalm 51:1-17 (The Broken Heart by Jin Cho)
- February 21: 1st Sunday of Lent: Genesis 9:8-17 (Destruction No More by Scott Bullock)
- February 28: 2nd Sunday of Lent: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (A Promise to Bless by Stuart Strachan Jr.)
- March 7: 3rd Sunday of Lent: Psalm 19 (Nature, Law & Holiness by Austin D. Hill)
- March 14: 4th Sunday of Lent: Ephesians 2:1-10 (Death to Life by Gabe Fung)
- March 21: 5th Sunday of Lent: Jeremiah 31:31-34 (Heart Renewal by Jonathan Cornell)
- March 28: Palm Sunday: Mark 11:1-11 (The Triumphal Entry by Heather Ghormley)