Ash Wednesday

Excerpt from Lectio 365

Today is Wednesday the 22nd of February, also known as Ash Wednesday. Many Christians around the world will be marking today as the first day of Lent: a season of fasting, examining our lives, and preparing ourselves for Easter.

In the Bible, ashes symbolize mortality (Genesis 3:19), are used to express grief (Isaiah 61:3), and are also a sign of repentance (Luke 10:13). At the beginning of Lent, some church traditions burn palms used in the previous year’s Palm Sunday celebration and use the ash to mark a cross on the forehead of members of their congregation. This reminds them of their mortality and prompts them to examine their hearts and get right with God.

For many, Ash Wednesday is the beginning of a season of fasting. Some people give up certain types of food, while others give up social media, television, or other habits during the 40 days of Lent (which exclude Sundays).

Reflection by Bob Grover, a friend of mine, retired farrier, Brethren minister, Hospice Chaplain.

[Lent is] a 40 day period of fasting leading up to the annual observance of the Passion of Christ; His persecution, death and resurrection.

Does everyone know that fasting is not an end unto itself?

Fasting is the practice of abstaining from something of value and most often done with food. It is a process of denying oneself something that occupies much of our attention. But fasting is not an end unto itself. In other words, there is no merit, no reward, no sense of accomplishment that it brings to the individual for having done it. To do so for those reasons embraces a performance-based attitude seeking acceptance or approval either from God or from the faith community. Wrong reasons!

Fasting is a pathway to redirect the central focus of our life toward something else that is more worthy. Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert as He prepared to launch into His ministry of preaching, teaching, performing healings and miracles, and finally culminating in His sacrifice for all of us. His fasting was done to spend time with the Father, to prepare Him, and to test Him (Luke 4:1-13).

As we fast, we begin to wrestle with the feelings of withdrawal and intense need for whatever we are giving up. That’s our cue to center on a source more sustaining and eternal than the things of this world that only provide temporary solutions.

For me this is one of the ways that Jesus’s claims to be living waters and the bread of life can come to life. While those claims tend to be viewed metaphorically, they still proclaim the eternal truth that abiding in Jesus redemptively, spiritually, emotionally, and even experientially – viewing all of life as sacramental * – bring us deeper into personal intimacy with Jesus.

Whether it’s food or social media, or any other thing you are dropping (or perhaps picking us as a practice) during Lent – do it Solo Deo Gloria! For the glory of God and not for any prideful accomplishment of your own.

Clear out the distractions so that God can do something in you and for you!

(*“ the concept referred to above, "all of life as sacramental," comes from The Sacrament of the Present Moment” by Jean-Pierre de Caussade. A great read for Lent by the way!)

I’m praying for you,Pastor Deb