Today marks a specific period in the Church calendar. Today begins a 40-day journey from now until Easter (excluding Sundays). This 40 day period is known as Lent. Contrary to some Lent is not what is found in your belly button (that is lint), but it is a season marked out by the church in preparation for the time we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
Lent is a season defined by repentance, reflection, and renewal. It is a time in which the church has historically marked itself in tangible ways. One of those ways is the Ash Wednesday service and the imposition of ashes. “Its name comes from the ancient practice of placing ashes on worshippers’ heads or foreheads as a sign of humility before God, a symbol of mourning and sorrow at the death that sin brings into the world. It not only prefigures the mourning at the death of Jesus, but also places the worshipper in a position to realize the consequences of sin. Ash Wednesday is a somber day of reflection on what needs to change in our lives if we are to be fully Christian.” (Dennis Bratcher)
All of us, as we grow in relationship to Christ find a need to be continually transformed. Part of this transformation comes in laying certain things aside. The season of Lent is a time to lay aside something that may not be bad, but may be hindering our connection to God. It is a season to reflect on Jesus and what he has done in our life and the world around us. It is a time to reflect on how we are to be called into the mission of God to redeem the world.
The season of Lent in many ways stems from the temptation of Jesus in Luke 4. Jesus went into the wilderness to spend an extended time in prayer and in relationship with his father. He fasted during his 40-day journey and it is one of many ways Jesus modeled a deep relationship to the father.
Here is my three-fold challenge to each of us. First, fast from something (food on certain days, certain foods, television, social media, etc.) and when that something comes to mind pray for a deeper relationship with God. Fasting, allows us to be reminded of our need for God in our everyday lives. Second, spend extra time in self-reflection, repentance, and in spiritual renewal (the spiritual disciplines are a good way to do so: prayer, scripture reading, meditation upon God, fellowship with other believers, etc.). Finally, faith requires action so in this season seek to find a way of loving others that is outside the norm of everyday life.
My prayer for you and I is that this season of Lent is one in which we would draw closer to Jesus. May the Lenten season be one in which we are refreshed and renewed, a time in which we sense the Spirit’s presence in deeper and more powerful ways. During these days may we be marked by Christ and His cross, just like many of us will be marked by ashes today.