Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Should Evangelicals Celebrate Ash Wednesday?
I teach a small Bible devotion for a company with Christian owners. Once a month, they invite their employees to join together and spend fifteen or twenty minutes with a bit of encouragement and reflection from the Scriptures. I love this idea, but on more than one occasion folks there have commented to me that it's difficult to "switch gears" from sales calls, production worries, and accounting headaches to a quiet time where they can absorb all the devotion may have for them.
I can completely see how this would be so. It's hard to turn off all the cares and worries of our ever busier lives and just focus in on what God has to say. Many churches begin their services with an extended time of worship music for just that reason; it helps prepare our hearts and minds for the teaching. So, we learn to quiet ourselves in preparation for the tasks of the day with our daily devotional time and we learn to quiet ourselves in preparation for the week in our worship services.
I write all this today because it's Ash Wednesday, which marks a forty day period of reflection prior to Easter. Many people today, especially those in non-denominational churches, don't see a big significance in Lent. Some have left Roman Catholic or other traditional denominations who had a more formal observance of the day, and they feel that Lent is part of the "ritual" that was part of the "old school" way of doing things. But, is this the right way to think about Lent?
It seems to me that Lent is a very biblical idea. God had the Israelites spend time reflecting and thinking about how He rescued them at least twice yearly (Passover and Sukkot). The Psalms are replete with God pointing to the fact that He is the one who delivered Israel from Egypt. Paul in Ephesians 2:11-14 instructs us to remember how we, who were once cut off and separated from God were then reconciled to Him through Christ's sacrifice.
Lent is the perfect time, then, to quiet ourselves and prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter and another year of living new lives in Christ. So, it makes sense to fast, to sacrifice some of what adds to our busy days, or to sacrifice some of the desires and distractions that crowd our lives. We need to remember how fragile we are and that our lives and our salvation are a result of God's good grace.
I urge you to see how you can make the time of Lent one where your hearts and lives are quieted before the Lord. A little ritual is not necessarily a bad thing—and it may help you to appreciate the enormity of Easter a little bit better