Today marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. Lent is the season on the Church calendar that leads up to Easter. For the next 46 days, the focus of the Church will be to prepare for Easter… to prepare to remember the death and celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.
More specifically, today is Ash Wednesday. For many years, the tradition for the Church has been to mark Ash Wednesday by starting a journey which prepares us as individuals and a congregation for Easter. One part of this journey is sacrifice. Many Christians observe the season by fasting, or giving something up, for the 40 days that lead to Easter. (Many people do not observe their fast on Sundays because Sunday is recognized as a day of celebration with the congregation. Therefore, it’s a 40 day fast.)
The sacrifice that a person makes for the season is supposed to help focus his or her attention on the sacrifice that Jesus made. The longing for whatever it is that has been sacrificed should awaken a longing for Jesus instead. The journey is intended not to just be a random practice, but an opportunity to draw closer to who Jesus is by identifying with Him through sacrifice and longing.
The other part of the journey is the act of taking up a practice. If I give up something for the next 40 days, I need to consider what I am taking up to replace it…. What practice am I going to take up that will help me draw closer to Jesus? In giving something up, I’m creating space in my life. The space will be filled with something… the question is with what will I fill it?
I would encourage you to consider what Ash Wednesday will mean for you. What will you do during this season to prepare for Easter?
Scripture readings for today:
Return to the Lord
12 “Yet even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
13 and rend your hearts and not your garments.”
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love;
and he relents over disaster.
14 Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the Lord your God?
15 Blow the trumpet in Zion;
consecrate a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
16 gather the people.
Consecrate the congregation;
assemble the elders;
gather the children,
even nursing infants.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her chamber.
17 Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”
16 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
Lay Up Treasures in Heaven
19 “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.