From the Pastor
Message from Jim
Message from Pastor Jim

CRELIN, JIM

 

From Pastor Jim

At this time of year these are the questions I sometimes hear. Ash Wednesday and Lent … what are these church events about? Are they mentioned in the Bible? No! Then why do we celebrate them? What are their origins? Is this something of which I should be aware and in which I should participate?  Yes!

 

In the Old Testament ashes were used for two purposes: as a sign of humility and mortality and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin. Dusting oneself with ashes was the penitent’s way of expressing sorrow for sins and faults. Ancient examples of expressing one’s penitence are found in Job 42:3-6, Numbers 19:17, Jonah 3:6, Matthew11:21, Luke 10:13 and Hebrews 9:13. The Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday has also been taken from this Old Testament biblical custom. And yet, it wasn’t until the 10th century that receiving ashes on the head as a reminder of mortality and a sign of sorrow for sin became a symbolic practice of the Anglo-Saxon church.

 

This year Ash Wednesday was March 6. This day of repentance, which for many in the Western church marks the beginning of Lent, is the day that initiates a 40-day period of fasting, meditation and spiritual reflection prior to Easter. The 40 days recalls how our Lord spent 40 days in the desert fasting and praying (Matthew 4:1-11). On this occasion the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross. For many Christians, the practices of Ash Wednesday are the annual reminder of where our hearts should be in relation to God in deep appreciation of Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins on the cross.

 

Seminary professor Dr. Barry Jones explains, “Part of what Lent is all about is entering into our own ‘spiritual wilderness,’ a time of introspection and self-examination, a time of sober reflection on our spiritual health. Lent is a time of keen attentiveness to the reality of God’s presence and to the reality of our own sinfulness (for the two go hand-in-hand). It’s a time of repentance, fasting and prayer. A time of emptying ourselves so that we can be filled. A time of purging our lives of the things that hold us in their grip. The problem is that we don’t like ‘the wilderness.’  Often, we prefer the easy life of the tourist to the rugged commitment of the pilgrim. In Lent we are invited to stop playing and to take our faith seriously, to enter into a focused time of spiritual reflection and renewal, asking God to help us uncover the junk in our lives that chokes our souls, that weighs us down and trips us up.”

 

Wow! Dr. Jones has summed up Lent in one mighty paragraph. These 40 days offer a chance to deny yourself for the purpose of being present to God; a chance to prepare ourselves for His passion on Easter; a chance to observe this season as a spiritual discipline for reflection on our need for repentance. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to do some Lenten cleaning of our souls so that we can better serve God with our whole lives.


Are you considering observing Lent?  Sometimes the only action associated with the Lenten season is “What are you giving up for Lent?” While this is not an unreasonable question, it will only take you so far. The real question of the Lenten season is, “How will I repent and return to God with all my heart?” This invites an even deeper question: “In what areas of my life have I gotten away from God and what is His invitation to me for finding my way back?” Lent is an opportunity to be more intentional in our desire to know God better.

 

--Jim

 

Last Published: March 8, 2019 10:26 AM
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