12 Feb Entering Lent in Community: Ash Wednesday at Calvary
Lent begins this week with the observance of Ash Wednesday. People sometimes ask me, “What is Lent all about? Why don’t the Sundays ‘count’ as part of Lent? Why do some people give up things like sweets?” These are all great questions and especially for people who have not grown up in liturgical traditions, gaining a clearer understanding of the purpose of Lent helps us enter it more deeply and receive more meaning from our Lenten practices.
Easter is the highest holy day of the Christian faith, but to celebrate it in a vacuum, without immersing ourselves in all that comes before the resurrection—both chronologically and theologically—robs the day of its true significance. Hence the need for Lent.
Lent is the period of preparation, repentance and renewal that precedes Easter. It begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter worship. The last week of Lent is called Holy Week and it commemorates Jesus’ last week of life on earth. It is the final, most important part of Lent.
Lent is intentionally more solemn than the rest of the year, and with its encouragement toward self-denial, it can be a hard sell for contemporary worshipers. Others find it to be the most meaningful time of year—the most honest time of year when we wrestle with the hard things of life and walk with Jesus through the darkest days of his life as well. During this season we focus on self-reflection and repentance. Mirroring the forty days of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, Lent begins 46 days before Easter Sunday. Because every Sunday is to be a celebration of the resurrection and therefore not a day of fasting, the Sundays of Lent are not included in the forty penitential days of Lent.
On Wednesday (March 6, 2019, 7 p.m.) Calvary, along with our brothers and sisters from three additional churches, will gather in Calvary’s sanctuary for a Taizé Ash Wednesday service. Taizé is a particular type of worship that incorporates much more silence than most of us are accustomed to—in worship or in anything else we do. The service will invite us to enter a period of self-examination, confession, prayer, fasting and self-denial. We are called to use these next forty days as a time of reflection on our sin, on the ways that we separate ourselves from God and from each other. While there is a gravity to Lent, there is also joy along the Lenten journey. The juxtapositions of mortality and eternity, sin and grace, death and life, make the path to Jesus’ cross and tomb a rugged, rewarding terrain.
Lent can be a dangerous time. It is dangerous to meet Jesus in the dark places, to accept his radical touch, and to ask the same questions of ourselves that Jesus asks of his disciples. (At Calvary, our Lenten sermon series will center around Jesus’ question: “Who do people say that I am?”) In these moments of utter truth and honesty, we find ourselves vulnerable enough to connect with the risen Christ as never before.
We invite you to join us for Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. Come see what a difference a close encounter with Jesus can make in your life. I believe you will be surprised by what you experience and by who Jesus really is.
Yours for the Kingdom,