Feb 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday? Lent? What is it?

What is Lent and what’s the deal with the ashes? What’s Ash Wednesday all about? Isn’t that what Catholics do?

Unless you grew up in the Catholic church, you would not be very familiar with Ash Wednesday and its practices.

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the six weeks before Easter called the Lenten Season. Christians mark the 40 days of the Lenten Season with fasting, prayer, and self-denial as a way of sharing in the suffering of Jesus as He prepared for His ministry in the 40 days in the wilderness.

If you were to count up all the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, there are actually 46 days. But the Sundays are free days because for us, Sundays are mini-Easter days.

The reason why we are marked on our foreheads with the mark of the cross with ashes is because ashes were sprinkled over ones head as a sign of repentance. The ashes were a reminder that we are nothing but dust. But the sign of the cross reminds us that because of Jesus Christ, we are more than dust – that we are children of God.

Lenten season is the time of the Christian year when we especially identify with the sufferings of Jesus. During Lent we walk the way of the cross, remembering the reason why Jesus suffered and died.

During this Lenten season, I encourage you to think about how you will prepare for Easter by practicing the disciplines of fasting, prayer, and self-denial.

I urge you to commit to fasting during Lent. Don’t do it to lose weight. That’s the wrong motive. Fast in order to identify with the sufferings of Christ. There are many different ways to fast. You can drop a favorite food from your menu, you can choose to fast one day of the week, or you can go on a partial fast for the entire season.

I also urge you to consider giving to someone in need. Give a gift that goes beyond your normal giving. Let it be a giving that “hurts.” That is, you should deprive yourself of something you want in order to help someone else.

Finally continue praying and reflecting on the reason why Christ suffered and died for us. We are doing a Lenten Bible Study as a church and you can find out more about it on our web page or by speaking with Stephen Thomas.

Lent is a time that is crucial to our spiritual health. By taking Lent seriously through fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, we will be able to identify with the sufferings of Jesus in a way that we never have before. And the real spiritual gain of Lent will be experienced during Easter. For by preparing for His death and entering into His suffering we will be able to experience the resurrection joy in a way that we have never experienced before!

Prepare yourselves to be blessed as you fast, pray, and give-sacrificially and get ready for the glory of Easter morning.

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