LENTEN CONNECTIONS: Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday ashesAlthough I did not grow up with the practice of journeying through Lent to Easter, it is a season I now look forward to with anticipation.  While there is no reference to this liturgical season in the Scriptures, very early on in church history we see Jesus’ followers intentionally keeping this period of preparation leading up to Easter.  As the early church grew, they recognized the need to develop practices to orient life towards the pivotal work of God in Jesus Christ.  The calendar year itself was divided into sections that guide us to remember and respond to Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection.

Life is so very full.  Many essential and meaningless things alike call for my attention every moment of every day.  And in the midst of it all, I can easily be deceived by the insidious lie that life is about me, with God tacked on as an extra.  Of course I would never say it like that, but if my life was evaluated in terms of how I actually live, I wonder what the answer would be?  So, I know I need all the help I can get to take the real times, places and relationships of my life and submit them to the gracious intervention of God.  To slow down and listen to my own life, to consider my own actions, values, desires and motives, to recognize my own sin and brokenness in the presence of God, and pray to the One who gave himself for me, and longs to live his life in me.

Lent challenges me to do all of this.  It is a journey with Jesus and to Jesus going the way of the cross–a season for reflection, prayer, confession and fasting.  It is a time to re-evaluate whether his “way” of submission, service, and sacrifice really is our “way.”  When we walk Jesus’ way, the journey to fullness of life always comes through death.  Every day, we are bombarded with messages that success, power, comfort and recognition are what we really need for the good life.  Jesus’ way is so unlike our culture and experience that it takes time and effort just to begin to recognize what it can look like in our daily lives.

If this was easy, Lent could be 40 minutes long.  It is a journey of 40 days for good reason.  And in case we think we are in control of the journey, we begin with Ash Wednesday, receiving the ashen mark of the cross that proclaims our complete frailty and absolute hope in Christ.  Only then, in full dependence, do we choose to act, knowing it is God who does his good work in us.

So what will mark your Lenten journey this year?  Will you set aside time for prayer?  Will you give up something that wastes time and take up a life-giving activity you have said you don’t have time for?  Will you give up spending money on one thing that serves yourself and take up giving that money to serve another?  Will you give up something to which you go when you just “need something” (that cup of coffee, snack food…) and take up increased awareness of God as your source of strength?  Will you give up certain times you usually fill your mind with the world’s way (TV, media) and take up renewed time to read his Word or other spiritual resources?  Will you spend time asking God about the sin that is in your life and receive the gift he died to give . . . his forgiveness and power to live for him.  You’ve got 40 days (plus Sundays) . . . take time and see where God will lead you on this Lenten journey.

Read Philippians 3:5-11 and reflect on how you can let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who died for us.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=philippians%202:5-11&version=NRSV

Prayer: Lord Jesus, today we answer your call to follow you.  We pray that, by your grace, you will open our eyes to where we are walking in our own way.  We admit that we are weak, broken and needy, and that in you we find all we need.  We pray that, in your goodness, throughout this Lenten journey you will draw us to yourself ,and that as we abide in you, we will walk in fullness of life.  Amen

Contributed by Carla Olsen Draper

Pastor of Women’s Ministries, Foothills Alliance Church

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