by Dr. Becky Luman
For all Christians, the celebration of Easter needs no justification. For some of us, however, Lent has merited only a cursory gesture (e.g. “I gave up chocolate for Lent,”) or been neglected altogether as an unnecessary remnant of monasticism. But the forty days preceding our Resurrection observance may be more crucial than evangelicals have generally conceded.
Both books I ordered begin with a rationale for Lenten observance by contemporary believers. Lent was first mentioned as a 40-day season of preparation in AD 325 by the First Council of Nicaea. In the early Church, converts were baptized into full church membership at Easter; Lent included a period of preparation for that pivotal experience. Editors of both books argue against seeing Lent as a gloomy period of abstinence; rather, it is a journey toward joy, experiencing a deepened death to self as a prelude to a deeper joy in knowing that we are alive in Christ. It is a time of penitence and self-examination certainly; but the season ends in glorious realization of God’s love and forgiveness through the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. Many would argue that without the penitential period of Lent, the power and wonder of the Resurrection celebration is diminished.
Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter
published by Plough Publishing House in 2003
401 pages of text
The book features excerpts from great Christian leaders/writers of ancient past, recent past and present such as Augustine, Luther, Amy Carmichael, Oswald Chambers, C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, Henri Nouwen, Philip Yancey , Alister E. McGrath and N.T. Wright. The seventy-two readings, approximately six pages each, are profoundly theological, yet accessible for the lay person. These would be valuable for congregational Lenten and Easter services as well as for private devotions during these holy seasons.
Lent and Easter: Wisdom from Henri J. M. Nouwen: Daily Scripture and Prayers Together with Nouwen’s Own Words
Edited by Judy Bauer
published in 2005 by Liguori, a Catholic publisher
112 pages of text
This book, which covers Ash Wednesday through the second Sunday of Easter, features short, half-page selections from the works of Father Henri Nouwen. Across the page from the Nouwen excerpt is a related scripture, a prayer and a Lenten or Easter “action” to enable the reader to practice the idea described. These brief chapters can be used as elements in seasonal services for the whole church, as an opening devotion in small groups such as Bible studies, and for family or individual devotional times.
I intend to use these books regularly to expand my own observance of Lent and Easter. I recommend them to our WBS family members as valuable additions to their libraries both for church and personal use.