Ash Wednesday & Lent

Most major observances in the church year are observed because of major events in Christ’s life. Lent is certainly one of these. Lent comes from the Anglo-Saxon term “lencten” meaning “spring” which is the time Lent occurs.   Lent is the time of year we remember Jesus’ suffering and death upon the cross. During Lent we remember that Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to give his life for our sins.
Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at Easter which is a 46 day period. In ancient times and still today Lent was a time of fasting but fasting was not done on Sundays. By excluding all Sundays (6) during this time Lent will last 40 days. The number 40 is very significant in the Christian world. Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness before he started his public ministry; Moses fasted and prayed for 40 days; Elijah fasted for 40 days; it rained for 40 days and nights when Noah set sail in the ark and the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years.  Lent is a time of prayer, repentance and renewal.
Ash Wednesday has been observed since the 7th century. Its name is derived from the ancient practice of sprinkling ashes upon the heads of penitent people who had confessed their sins. In our church service on Ash Wednesday we use ashes in a bowl that have been burned from last year’s palms from Palm Sunday. If you would like to participate you may dip your finger in the bowl and make the sign of the cross on your forehead with the ashes. This ancient tradition reminds us that from ashes we came and to ashes we will return as well as a call to confession and repentance. It has been practiced in the church in varying degrees since around 600 A.D..  The sign of the cross is made also with the words, "Dust you are and to dust you return" (Genesis 3:19).  Those words are part of the curse given to Adam and Eve following their fall into sin.  The words keep us mindful of our mortaility, sin and need for a Savior.  Throughtout Scripture, ashes were seen as a sign of penitance, sorrow and mourning.  The ashes remind us that, without the love and forgiveness of Jesus poured out for us on the cross, we truly are dust.  And the cross reminds us that for Christians, death is not the end, because Jesus defeated death when He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday.  
The day before Ash Wednesday, Fat Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday, is celebrated in many parts of the world with feasting. The French call it Mardi Gras and the feasting comes from the custom of using up household fats prior to the 40 days of Lenten fasting when no fat is used. This tradition is not usually practiced in Protestant circles.
A lot of Christians will fast during Lent or give up some unpleasant habit as a way of remembering what Jesus did for them – a small sacrifice of their own so to speak. Fasting or giving up something is totally up to the individual and is not required by our church or the Bible.
The entire six weeks of Lent is a time to worship and praise the Lord God for all he has done for us. We meditate and pray about the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. There are Wednesday night Lenten services each week along with Sunday worship. In this way we appreciate the salvation that was purchased for us at such a great cost. We are constantly reminded of the blessings and promises of forgiveness and eternal life with our Savior. The celebration of Lent shows us the battle that was won at Calvary by Jesus taking on all of our sins, temptations, evil of the world and the constant threat of the devil.
  June 2021  
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