This week we celebrate Ash Wednesday. I knew the basics about this first step in the Lenten season but found a few surprises when I dug deeper into its background.
As early as the mid-fourth century, Christians have observed a time of preparation before the Easter celebration. The Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. The forty days of Lent recall the 40 day fast of Jesus in the wilderness after his baptism (Matthew 4:2, Luke 4:1-2) and Moses’ 40 day fast on Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:28). It is a time of simplicity and preparation.
The principal themes of Lent are repentance, baptismal renewal, prayer, fasting, and service to others.
In my Lutheran church we bring back the palms we used last Palm Sunday, burn them and use them for the ashes used on Ash Wednesday. Why ashes? Using ashes as a sign of repentance is an ancient practice, often mentioned in the Bible (e.g., Jonah 3:5-9; Job 42:6; Jeremiah 6:26; Matthew 11:21). The early Christians adopted the use of ashes from Jewish practice as an external mark of penitence.
The Ash Wednesday Invitation
I want the ashes to go deeper this year. Mark the sign of the cross inward on my heart, not outward on my forehead.
Lent often is a time to give up something to remind us all what God gave up when He sent Jesus to die and rise again for us.
This year I will give up time spent on others things, worldly distractions, in order to have more room for God in my life. Often I rush through my morning devotions and dash off prayers as I work. I am hungry for more.
I plan to read the Gospel of John throughout Lent and found this wonderful guide at The Practical Disciple. This site has other interesting resources on Lent.
I also am going to fast from criticalness. My sharp tongue and judgmental attitude pricks my conscious and I know I am not Christlike when I allow my insensitivity to rule in my heart. Think before I speak and pray before I act. And not just silence. I feel a call to be more mindful to encourage others. A Lenten lull sprinkled with a huge dose of encouragement for others.
The ashes remind me to reflect on who I am and Whose I am.
The ashes help me remember to let go things that clutter and block my relationship with God.
The ashes prompt me to turn over my frailty and imperfections to God and praise Him for sending us a Savior.
The ashes invite me to return and draw closer to the One who loves each of us and wants a deeper relationship with us.
May my ego crumble like ashes as God embraces my human heart with His love.
What are your plans for Ash Wednesday and Lent this year?
Jean Wise says
Catching up with my comments this morning and wanted to say , Pamela, the gift of encouragement is no needed in this world today. may God continue to bless your ministry.
“A Lenten lull sprinkled with a huge dose of encouragement for others.” Wow…love this. I’m passionate about encouragment–it’s the basis of my ministry and I get excited when I see others share that desire.
Jean Wise says
Hi Daune, I know not everyone practicing Lent but I do find it a wonderful invitation for reflection. I have you and your family in my prayers as you travel and for this difficult time you are going through. May God comfort all of your hearts!
Duane Scott says
I don’t do lent, but I find it could be a benefit if I did.
Jeanie, thanks for this great reminder of what Lent is about. Love your suggestions.
Jean Wise says
This Lenten season is drawing me closer to pause and listen more as I create more space for God and dig into His word, I pray He opens my heart. May this season bless all of you as you walk with Him these 40 days.
I have set one of those reminder chimes on my computer so every hour it remind me to center, pray and be grateful. Works on days like today when I am working on the computer but not while I am away. Will hope the Spirit nudges me then.
Jen love the invitation to draw – funny but you know close to the truth than we realize!
Found you through Soli Deo Gloria and am so glad! I love this post and will link to it on my blog. You explain Ash Wednesday and Lent so well. Thank you.
Jean! I’m so glad that you are here this week. And do you know, just tonight I decided that God was asking me to give up some of my time watching TV or vegging to focus more on my drawing, on my art. In my art, I find Sabbath. In the Sabbath, I find Him. ANyway, on your permalink, it says, “Ash-Wednesday-Gods-Invitation-to-Draw.” A sign??? 🙂
GLENDA CHILDERS says
This is my first attempt to practice Lent. . . and your teaching here was really helpful to me. Thank you.
Phather Phil Malmstrom says
Thank you so much Jean, for this wonderful reminder of what Lent is intended to be, and for the history lesson as well. May we all find that simplicity that we need to more thoroughly dedicate ourselves to His Glory.
Have a Blessed Day Dear Lady!
I would say you have some good ‘lent’ lessons that I could take with me. I, also love that you wrote about this today. This is such an important time to really dive in with the One who saved us….awesome!
Amy Sullivan says
I am so happy you wrote about Ash Wednesday because I have just been spinning, and guess what, I need a big reminder.
Thanks, and thanks for linking-up with Jen.