Grow closer to God during Lent

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Ash Wednesday is next week, Feb. 14, and with it the beginning of Lent.  Many Christians don't consider this a part of their worship year. While the Roman Catholic, Orthodox and Episcopal denominations are more intentional about Lenten worship, a broader segment of the Church is discovering the value of setting aside time for repentance and Easter preparation.  Baptist tradition celebrated Lent at its Swiss roots as did many other evangelical denominations.  Many congregations and individuals use this structured time to deepen their devotion of Jesus Christ. 

 Lent is a 40-day season of preparation that reflects Jesus Christ's 40 days temptation by Satan in the desert. It begins with acts of fasting and self-denial on Ash Wednesday.  The season is actually 46 days before Easter Sunday – the six Sundays in between are not counted, as they are “mini-Easters” and feast days.  People follow Jesus’ example and give up something important to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.

 The dates for Lent and Easter follow the Lunar Date of Passover.  We know from scripture that Jesus was crucified on the Friday of Passover.  Passover begins on the first full moon on or after March 21. (The Spring Equinox) That gives us the date of the Sunday for Easter. You then count back six Sundays for season of Lent and the Wednesday before the first Sunday of Lent is Ash Wednesday.  Before the glorious celebration of resurrection, we look at our sorrow and mortality, represented in the ashes, which makes the cross necessary. 

 The ashes are an ancient symbol of death and an expression of sorrow.  One of the earliest use of them in worship is found in the book of Job.  The ashes used in worship are traditionally made from the palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday.  Mixed with a little oil, they become a rich and meaningful means of grace. 

 2018 is an oddity of Lenten tradition.  The Fast Day of Ash Wednesday and the Feast Day of Valentine's Day fall on the same day, Feb. 14.  That presents a problem for some people who observe both holidays.

The observance of Ash Wednesday requires fasting and “giving up” something for Lent that fosters spiritual growth. Valentine's Day is a time for celebrating love, often celebrated by eating out and giving gifts of candy. Some will just allow the overlap while other Christians will celebrate St. Valentines feast on the previous Sunday. 

 The Ashes of Wednesday are placed on the worshiper’s forehead in the sign of the cross with the words, “remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return,” The cross is worn until the next morning as a witness to the Work of Jesus “

Our prayer for you is that the season of Lent is more than just giving up Diet Coke or chocolate but provides a time to meditate on the deeper things of God.  Find that one thing that pushes your soul along that internal journey of salvation.  Rather than food fast, try a technology fast, give up a grudge or even a bad habit.  Consider giving up a block of time each day to devote yourself to searching the scriptures. It is between you and God what this sacrifice should be. 

 You are welcome to join the Cheatham Memorial United Methodist, 205 S. Houston (859 at US 80) in Edgewood invites you to two worship services on Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14.  From 10 to 11 a.m. we will have “Come and Go” time to share the gift of ashes with a full service at 6:30 p.m.. Check out www.cheathamumc.net for further details.