Even though the weather is still cold (and WET) we are moving toward Lent, that season that moves us into Easter.The word Lent actually derives from an Anglo Saxon word that means “spring”. You may remember that Lent is a period of forty days preceding Easter, but it doesn’t count Sundays in that period. The official start of Lent is Ash Wednesday, this year coming on Feb. 26. The great act of worship that day is the “imposition” of ashes. I take some ashes from a small container and place them on your head, saying either, “From ashes you came, to ashes you shall return”. OR “Repent and believe the gospel”. I usually speak that second admonition. (We all realize that we’re going to die someday). Almost always, my scripture for this service will be Psalm 51. David’s sin has been exposed, and he longs to be forgiven and back in fellowship with God. “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me”.
There will be a full Ash Wednesday service that Wednesday night at 6:30pm.But I offer ANOTHER alternative. I will be in the sanctuary from 8-9am that morning for anyone who wants to receive ashes then. Why so early? Those ashes can become your point of witness for the day. You go to work and someone asks, “What’s that on your head?” You respond by telling the WHY of the ashes. That they talk about our sin and our need to repent. That opening Ash Wednesday service begins the season of Lent and Jesus’ journey toward the cross. I have put together a sermon series for Lent called “The Way of the Cross” that I hope will help us think about the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
The Ash Wednesday service contains some meaningful liturgy, and the MOST meaningful, to me, is the INVITATION TO THE OBSERVANCE OF LENTEN DISCIPLINES:
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ:
the early Christians observed with great devotion
the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection,
and it became the custom of the Church that before the Easter celebration
there should be a forty-day season of spiritual preparation.
During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism.
It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins
and had separated themselves from the community of faith
were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness,
and restored to participation in the life of the Church.
In this way the whole congregation was reminded
of the mercy and forgiveness proclaimed in the gospel of Jesus Christ
and the need we all have to renew our faith.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church,
to observe a holy Lent:
by self examination and repentance;
by prayer, fasting, and self-denial;
and by reading and meditating on God’s Holy Word.
To make a right beginning of repentance,
and as a mark of our mortal nature,
let us now bow before our Creator and Redeemer.