Dear RRUC friends,
This last Wednesday, Christians from around the world celebrated Ash Wednesday. This is a day marking 40 day period of personal spiritual reflection, reminiscent of the 40 years of preparation by the Hebrews in the desert wilderness, and of Jesus’ 40 days’ fast in preparation for his ministry. In bible times, sprinkling oneself with ashes was a symbol of sorrow for sin (penitence). Usually, the left-over palm crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned to make the ashes, which are marked on the forehead in the sign of a cross.
Lent itself is a 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday (excluding Sundays), and is traditionally a period of preparation for remembering Holy Week. In the proto-Church, Lent was the final part of a year-long teaching programme for “catacumens’, those candidating for Baptism – which then took place on Easter Sunday. Since Easter is a “movable feast” due to the lunar calendar, the date of Ash Wednesday changes each year.
It is a traditional practice to “give up’ something for Lent, like food, swearing, treats, or for implementing a new practice like daily prayer, walking a daily labyrinth, fasting, or bible study, etc. Lent is a time for special reflection on our spiritual state before God. Like all things, Lent can also be abused by making it a legalism, or focus on the wrong aspects. As a sincere spiritual practice, Lent can be very meaningful for those seeking greater spiritual self-awareness – which is of itself a very good thing.
The symbols, practices and reflections of Lent can be a valuable part of our spirituality, and these go back to the very first generation of disciples of Jesus. Often, Protestants fear “Paganism” and so reject very healthy spiritual practices, and miss out. The whole idea of Church is to connect us with other disciples on our journey, and to provide us with a sense of connection to the ancient Church. Contemporary buzz-words that have been re-discovered in our time, like “mindfulness”, actually are things Christians have practised for 2,000!
Besides, Lent has a very special memory for us: our daughter, Aimee, was born on Ash Wednesday, 21 years ago.
So as you go about your business this week-end, may you come to find a special way of being spiritual over these 40 days. Remember to pray for our church, for the leaders, for the staff and Minister. Please pray for our country at these uncertain times and as we face a transition of leadership. Pray for women in our society who suffer a storm of abuses. Pray for rain across our country. Pray for wisdom as we seek to mitigate the effects of climate change. Pray that we will use the Earth’s resources more wisely and sustainably.
The Father’s Group recently received a meme with the following words:
Fast from hurting words and instead speak kind words
Fast from sadness and be filled with gratitude
Fast from anger and be filled with patience
Fast from pessimism and be filled with hope
Fast from worries and have trust in God
Fast from complaints and contemplate simplicity
Fast from pressures and be prayerful
Fast from bitterness and fill your hearts with joy
Fast from selfishness and be compassionate towards others
Fast from grudges and be reconciled
Fast from words and be silent so that you can listen
All the words in italics are found in Scripture.
Be blessed through this Lenten season,