ASH WEDNESDAY & LENT
Lent takes place over forty days (minus Sundays), beginning on Ash Wednesday and continuing through Holy Week (the week prior to Easter). It can be thought of a season of preparation and repentance as we anticipate Good Friday & Easter. Many people choose to fast or practice some sort of self-denial throughout the weeks of Lent. This forty day fast corresponds to Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, prior to beginning his earthly ministry.
The word Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon word for “lengthen”. The Lenten season begins as the hours of daylight are lengthening in preparation for Spring. It’s a great picture of our own need to be lengthened, to be stretched so that we might grow spiritually. But we need to be careful not to make this season about our own efforts and abilities. Just as the days are dependent on the Sun to lengthen them, so we are dependent on the Son of God to lengthen us. This is not a season to work harder to become better Christians, it’s a season to rest in the finished work of Christ; and to trust that through Jesus, God is making us what we are incapable of becoming on our own.
We participate in this season through fasting and self denial but not for the sake of denial itself. The goal is not just independence from certain things, but rather greater dependance on Jesus. So we empty ourselves of the lesser things of this world, so that we might be filled with the greater things of God. The effects that seasons like this have on our lives impact the unity of the church dramatically. This is because, as we embark on this season of greater dependance on Christ, we can only do so with a clear conscience toward one another as well as offering forgiveness to those who have wronged us. Additionally, in choosing to participate in a fast of something that distracts us from Jesus and replacing it with more of Him in our lives, we are able to more readily take on the posture of forgiveness and reconciliation. Having resolved issues in our relationships, and removed distractions in our lives, we are ready to move forward in unity with each other, toward deeper communion with Jesus.
Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the Lenten season. Traditionally, Ash Wednesday includes the practice of having ashes placed on one’s forehead as a sign of penitence, sorrow, and even cleansing and renewal. Although we don’t participate by physically placing ashes on our foreheads, we do find this time of focused remembrance and preparation to be highly beneficial for us as a church.
“The aim of Ash Wednesday is threefold: to meditate on our mortality, sinfulness, and need of a savior; to renew our commitment to daily repentance in the Lenten season and in all of life; and to remember with confidence and gratitude that Christ has conquered death and sin.”
(The Worship Sourcebook, p.547)
In order to encourage this, we are asking all of our Life Groups to move their meeting time during the first week of Lent, to Ash Wednesday (March 5, 2014), so that we can all enter into this season together as a unified community through a time of prayer, worship, and remembrance. Jesus lived out with twelve guys all of the challenges that come with living in community. So we not only recognize the model that Christ set for us, but also come to the realization that living it out is best done in the context of community, where you learn to love others, share life with others, and bear one another’s burden. If you are not in a group this would be a great time to join one. You can find out more about Life Groups and get involved, by clicking HERE. We do not want anyone to enter into this season at Life not surrounded by community.
Gracious God, out of your love and mercy
you breathed into dust the breath of life,
creating us to serve you and our neighbors.
In this season of repentance,
restore to us the joy of our salvation
and strengthen us to face our mortality,
that we may reach with confidence for your mercy,
in Jesus Christ, our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and forever. Amen.