I had never truly studied or dove into LENT or Ash Wednesday in my Christian life and walk. Until last week that is. My eyes were opened to a potentially blessed and holy season of Addition, Subtraction, focus, repentance, reliance, and humbleness. I read and studied from a book called…..
THE LITURGICAL YEAR by Joan Chittister
The author is actually a born again Catholic Nun who found Christ and moved over to a evangelical belief system. She comes at the Liturgical Calendar Year and explains it in easy to understand terms and vernacular. How the “Holy Days” and different times of the calendar can be viewed and practiced by Evangelical Christians. Growing up in Ireland where EVERYONE is catholic and being a nun in an American-Catholic church gave her both positive and negative knowledge about LENT and ASH WEDNESDAY.
Here is a quote from her book about LENT: “Lent calls each of us to renew our ongoing commitment to the implications of the Resurrection in our lives, here and now…Lent is a call to renew a commitment grown dull, perhaps by a life more marked by ROUTINE and less about REFLECTION….Lent requires me, as a Christian, to stop for a while, to reflect again on what is going on in me and what God wants to do in me…Lent is not a ritual, it is a time given to think seriously about who Jesus is for us, to renew our faith from the INSIDE OUT.”
I mean who among us does not need this? How many of us have made our faith a “ROUTINE” or a CHECKLIST? How many of us have stopped going to the Lord in prayer, going to Sunday or Wednesday Church, or opening up the God-breathed and always profitable Scriptures out of some obligation and man-made idea that we NEED to so we can check it off our being a good christian list?
WE NEED RENEWAL, REFLECTION, REVITALIZATION in our Life and Faith! And that is what Lent is… A call to come back to being totally dependent and absolutely captivated by the TRINITY Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Because somewhere along the way we have become apathetic, numb, or captivated by the world. To spend 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness of our own soles and learning to live not only on bread alone, but from every word that comes from God’s mouth (and scripture). READ Matthew 4:1-11
So what about Ash Wednesday?
I mean we’ve all seen the people with Black Smudged on their foreheads and thought to ourself weird and curious thoughts. I mean I went as far as trying to tell someone who had this smudge that they had a smudge and they didn’t tell me that the smudge was significant until I pointed it out for the 5th time in our conversation and finally they had pitty/mercy on me to tell me that it was a holy smudge.
But, wow…Ash Wednesday is where it all starts and it is and it SHOULD be a powerful experience for those who observe it. In the old testament, when people would make “burnt offerings” to atone for their sins…their act of repentance didn’t just stop with the burnt offering and sacrifice. After they were done Atoning for their sins they would DUMP THE ASHES over their head. And for the rest of the day they would wear their sin, shame, and forgiveness. How humbling is that? To wear the ashes of your own sin on your head and clothes.
I equate it to the Scarlet Letter that Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote that shares a story of a Hester who committed adultery and her family made her wear a Scarlet Letter “A” on her clothes to proclaim to everyone of the Adultery that she had committed! How shameful and humbling.
Yet, here are God’s chosen people wear their shame and sin on their heads.
Ash Wednesday is a time of looking at your life and faith, seeing the depravity and misalignment of your own walk with God and REPENTING of those things in your life to start afresh with God. So you can spend the next 40 days of Lent rekindling and refreshing your heart to the heart of our Creator, Savior, and God!
The Smudge is merely a symbol of your own humbleness and repentance. It’s us saying Ashes, Ashes, We all fall down….at the feet of Christ, confessing that I am self-centered and NEED YOU!
Subtraction and Addition
LENT should not be marked only with “giving something up” i.e. subtraction. But there is an ADDITION that needs to happen as well. As we give something up that seems to consume us or that we put in the place of God…we need to ADD to that void with something that draws us into the presence of God and more intimate knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of Him. As we get ready to CELEBRATE the day in which our Savior died on the cross for us and then the day in which He rose again as a promise of our own resurrection and redemption…we must purge and prepare our hearts by Subtraction and Addition.
THE VOICE OF LENT IS NOT A SOUR ONE. IT IS A CALL TO REMEMBER WHO WE ARE AND WHERE WE HAVE COME FROM AND WHY (I.E. CHRIST’S DEATH, RESURRECTION, PROMISE TO RETURN). THE VOICE OF LENT IS THE CRY TO BECOME NEW AGAIN, TO LIVE FOR CHRIST NO MATTER WHAT OUR LIFE HAS BEEN LIKE UNTIL NOW AND TO LIVE FULLY!