Line the group across the middle of the room and ask the questions below. Those who get the answer right, take one step forward. Those who get the question wrong take one step back. The “winner” (and aren’t we ALL winners?) is the first one to cross the finish line where you are standing. What do they win? Hmmm? How about something purple?
- The official (liturgical) color of Lent is red. True of False? (False. It’s purple – representing royalty and repentance.)
- Lent lasts for 40 days, not counting Sundays. True or False? (True.)
- The word Lent comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word meaning “midwinter.” (False. It translates “springtime” since that is the time of year the season generally falls.)
- The 40 days of Lent are a reminder of the Bible story in which Jesus spends 40 days alone in the wilderness and is tempted by the Devil. True or False? (True. It also recalls the 40 years the Israelites wandered in the wilderness.)
- Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, when people often have the sign of the cross made of ashes placed on their foreheads. Most often, these ashes are made by burning palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday service. True or False? (True.)
- The ash is supposed to represent the story in which Jesus places dirt or ash on a blind man’s eyes to make him see again. True or False? (False. The ashes represent humility and our own mortality – from dust we came and to dust we shall return.)
- Many people give up something during Lent. The point of this practice is to show your willpower. True or False? (False. It is a practice of self-denial that allows room in your life for God to do something new.)
- Fasting is a common practice in Lent but the one day people don’t fast during Lent is Sundays. True or False? (True. People traditionally do not fast on Sundays as Sundays are to be reminders or a foretaste of the coming resurrection.)
- The phrase “Glory to God” is traditionally never spoken during Lent and does not make its return until Easter morning. True or False. (False. “Alleluia” is the what many churches abstain from saying in worship during Lent.)
- The last week of Lent is known as “Holy Week.” True or False? (True.)
- On Maundy Thursday, the last Thursday in Lent, we recall the last night and meal that Jesus shares with his disciples. True or False? (True.)
People often wear masks during the Mardi Gras activities that come just before Lent. Masks symbolize the way we often try to hide our sinfulness or our true nature. Lent is a time of taking off our masks, of examining our true selves, of being real before God so that we can come to understand that God knows us fully, forgives us, loves us, and encourages us to grow and become all we were created to be. Within this context, give youth an unfinished paper mache mask or smaller half mask (available in craft stores). Ask them to decorate the outside of the mask with words, images, and colors that represent how others see them – their “outside” self. On the inside of the mask, encourage them to display their “inside” self – their fears, their doubts, their shortcomings. When finished, invite responses from youth about the experience of creating these masks.
Invite youth to read the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Ask one or more persons to read the narration, another to read the words of Jesus, and one or more to read the words of the Tempter. Help the group to explore this story where Jesus goes off on his own to do some soul-searching and, in a sense, confront his own demons. The journey Jesus takes into the desert -- the journey to be alone with God and to seek God’s guidance about our true identity -- is the journey we are all invited to focus on during Lent.
- What do you think Jesus might have had to give up to go out in the wilderness by himself?
- The things the Tempter offers him are not intrinsically bad: food in a time of hunger, political power in a time of Roman oppression, a leap of faith. So why do you think Jesus resists these temptations?
- What memories do you have of times you faced choices that at the time seemed like good ideas but were ultimately led you in an unhealthy or unfaithful direction?
- Share what you do when you want time alone to think/pray/reflect. Where do you go? What do you do?
- What might be the benefit of spending time in Lent examining your life, considering your sins, thinking about what God wants for you?