First of all, many of you are probably wondering why on earth I haven’t started the “What the Bible Teaches” series. I have struggled with putting it into a blog format. I know regular readers are probably used to the fact that I sometimes change my mind. At this point though, I am still planning on doing it, but it will be a few weeks out before it starts. As I write, I think it may better suited to a podcast format, so I will look into that this week, and let you know.
Second of all, it has been a while since I have written. It seems that in this season of slowing, my soul is also quieter and my heart is rent. I would not be so bold as to say I am closer to God, but I feel closer to Him – there is a greater sense of holy presence and communion and less distraction internally. The month of February placed a great burden on my heart and soul for the church universal, and I have not been ready to write about it. However, since today is Ash Wednesday, and we are drawing into the season of Lent, it is my intent to write a post each week in heart preparation for Holy Week and Easter.
If you are anything like me coming from a Baptist and evangelical background, then Lent is actually somewhat foreign. A couple of years ago, my church had an Ash Wednesday service, and I had an ash cross on my forehead. Generally in the background that I come from, Ash Wednesday is just the day after Fat Tuesday, and Fat Tuesday is the end of Mardi Gras, and to most, just another day on the calendar. To be clear, as I write, I will be exploring the liturgical calendar, not coming from a place of experience or knowledge of it myself. In fact, google will be where I glean most of my knowledge, so forgive me and teach me if need be.
As I understand it, Ash Wednesday is a day of repentance and fasting. It is the first day of Lent, which is based on the 40 day period that Jesus was tempted in the desert. Lent was traditionally 40 days and is now typically 46 days. I think of it as 40 days before Holy Week, even though it is more like 39. It focuses on prayer, fasting, repentance, charity, atonement and self-denial. On Fridays, one usually fasts from something, and then Sundays are feast days.
On Ash Wednesday, one typically reads the following Bible passages. I am linking them to Bible Gateway where you may click over and read (feel free to change to the version you prefer – I will link to NET): Psalm 51, Joel 2:1-2,12-13. I have not determined what, if anything, I will give up for Lent. If you do give up something, and if you try and fail, as we all do every year at the start of a new year with resolutions, do not lament too much. This is actually the point as it shows us our deep need of Christ always and forever. The giving up shows us how much we idolize whatever over and above that which is truly good – Jesus Himself.
If you will remember, when we studied simplicity, Jesus references fasting as something we will do. I am choosing to think about Lent as well as our Jewish kin’s feasts and holidays as part of this series because I think they are practices that enrich our faith, the season of quiet, and our knowledge of Scripture. Evangelicals generally are good at knowing and studying Scripture and even doctrine, but often little thought is given to the practice of quiet, of presence, of fasting, etc. Knowing Scripture and doctrine is of little use if we do not practice what we know.
As I’ve studied Scripture, one thing that has stood out to me and become evident was the practice of remembering and celebrating. Though evangelicals have freedom apart from the liturgical calendar, this year for me will be an experiment in embracing these gentle rhythms of faith and remembering. Perhaps the liturgical calendar is a way to remember to be obedient to Christ’s expectations of us of fasting and praying and several other of the holy disciplines that we sometimes forget to regularly practice. Let me know if you will be joining in, and email subscribers, I am sorry you will be receiving this on Thursday!
Praying for each of you!