Last night our family attended our first Ash Wednesday service. Brad and I grew up in a faith tradition that didn’t observe Lent, so it was a new experience for us. We gathered together with a large room full of people that make up churches across Midtown, and it was a beautiful evening that fed my soul. Since I’m not accustomed to the practice of Lent, I studied it some this week and thought I’d share what I learned here. Eugene Cho’s blog post was especially insightful, and I would highly recommend reading it.
- Lent is a 40 day period (that doesn’t include Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and leading up to Easter Sunday.
- It marks a time of prayer, penance, repentance, humility, self-denial, and soul searching.
- It helps prepare our hearts for Passion Week.
- It is NOT about us or what we give up.
- It is NOT religious practice for the sake of religious practice. Eugene says (and I agree), “Anything that produces rituals, expressions, practices and the like – without ultimately inviting us to a deeper understanding and worship of the Living God – lends itself to empty religion. And what we need isn’t more religion. We need Gospel.”
- When you give up something for Lent, do it with purpose and love for God. Doing it for the sake of doing it makes us only like a clanging cymbal and resounding gong. It just attempts to draw attention to ourselves.
- Lent is about mourning the darkness in our hearts and rejoicing in the light of God who came to save us.
- Lent – whether we give up something or not – should invite us to give ourselves more fully to Jesus and the Kingdom of God.
- According to Jessi, “Lent is not about points, it’s about walking. It’s not about doing something better or executing the Christian life in a more tidy manner. The entire point of Easter (and thus Lent) is us celebrating that the work has already been done for us, on the cross. We have been made righteous by the blood of Jesus and no amount of tidying our lives will make us more holy in our Father’s eyes. The work has been done. The sacrifices have been made. We are not earning points. We are just walking closer. And picking up rhythms that help us to get quiet, draw near, and talk with our Father in this special season.”
Last night as ashes were smudge on my forehead, I was reminded that my time here on this earth is so short. How I spend my days is extremely important. How I spend my days and the extent that I choose to love others shows what I value, what is important to me. I was also reminded of the darkness of sin that constantly fights to invade my heart. I need a Savior because I’m no good on my own. I’m weak and powerless. As the ashes were wiped clean from my forehead, I was reminded that my sins have been forgiven and I’m a new creation. I can walk in freedom and peace and HOPE! I took communion with an abundantly grateful, humble heart. I can’t even believe the scandal of grace that God has shown me.
I’m excited about the Midtown Prayer Collective, which is a multi-church prayer project for Lent. I’m so thankful for the network of churches and pastors here in Midtown. It was a blessing to worship together with them last night!
If you’re interested in a devotional guide for Lent, I highly recommend this one.