In most churches, the decorations are purple, the royal color, of Kings. Lent is a special church season for reflection and taking stock. Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter.
Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.
This season of the year is equal only to the season of Advent in importance in the Christian year, and is part of the second major grouping of Christian festivals and sacred time that includes Holy Week, Easter, and Eastertide. Lent has traditionally been distinguished with prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Some churches today still observe fasting during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food. Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities.
Honoring that tradition, click here to download a copy of the Pennies for Peace Lenten Calendar for each student in your classroom and give it to them to take home for a Lenten practice and discipline. Share with your class information about Pennies for Peace an international service-learning program with tens of thousands of participants around the globe. Pennies for Peace gives one the tools to open your world and empower communities through education in Pakistan and Afghanistan. For more information go to www.penniesforpeace.org. For information on how to implement the program in your church and the steps to follow go to http://www.penniesforpeace.org/about-the-program/implement-the-program/.
Lent is a season of preparation to celebrate God’s awe-inspiring salvation at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians. In your classrooms this year practice the season of Lent. Make sure you have a worship center with a purple covering, a Christ candle, and a “prayer cross” a wooden cross created from two pieces of wood hammered together. Create the cross together in class on the first Sunday of Lent. In the following weeks, have the hammer, square nails, and small pieces of paper available near the cross. At a designated time during the Sundays in Lent your class is invited to write their prayer requests on the paper, and then nail them to the cross. Make this a quiet time or with a background of quiet music with only the sounds of the hammer striking the nails can be a moving time making memories about the meaning of Lent and a powerful call to prayer. The prayer requests can be removed during Holy Week so that on Easter morning the cross is empty symbolizing releasing our prayers and our needs to God and that we believe in the new life and transformation.
If your students are too young to nail, make a cardboard cross and have them draw or write prayers on sticky notes and have them place them each week on the cross. Make this a quiet time or with a background of quiet music.
Elsa Marshall previously served as the Resource Director and Associate for Christian Faith Formation and Youth Ministry.