It does not seem like we have gotten very far into the year/the church year, and yet here we are at Ash Wednesday (although this is Tuesday). I want to take two days to look at Ash Wednesday themes and scripture passages, and use the following two days of posts to look at the first Sunday in Lent. For those who do not know, there are six Sundays in Lent (including Palm or Passion Sunday) leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We will look at each day in turn during the season of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, and in some churches services ash or soot is used to the attendee’s forehead with the sign of the cross as an outward symbol of inner repentance of sin. The days of Lent are a journey towards of our need of confession and forgiveness of sin culminating in the Holy Days of Lent.
The writer of II Corinthians says to his readers, “[W]e entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain.” (II Corinthians 5:20b, 6:1)
Lent can be a time we become reconciled to God. It can be time of acknowledging sin and our need & desire to be forgiven. One might rightly ask, why does this last so long, throughout the weeks of Lent.
“For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation!” (Verse 2)
Let me say that for the writer of II Corinthians and the other Epistles, there was no season of Lent. What they would have celebrated/commemorated was Passover, and it was during the Passover week that Jesus was said to have been put to death, as he celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples as the Last Supper. It is the more “modern” Christian church, starting with the Roman Catholic Church, that first apportioned the days of Lent. Actual start of Lenten observances dates back to the 300’s. Churches other than the Roman Catholic church have incorporated Lent into their church year – some with great intent and preponderance and others with a lighter touch. It is an extended period of time for contemplation and introspection in preparation for the greatest event in the church year, and in the history of humanity.
“We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” (II Corinthians 6:3-10)
Christians and Christianity has endured much since its establishment amongst the Jews and Gentiles in Jesus time. It is not only the writer of II Corinthians and his companions who have suffered for their faith. Christians all through the ages have been persecuted. Christianity has been maligned and misunderstood, as was Christ himself. It is good for us to set aside time in the church year and in our faith to think about who we are as Christians, what we believe, and how we have or have not lived out our faith. I invite you to journey with me through the days and weeks of Lent.