Are you looking forward to Spring? Did you know that Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter, means Spring? Wednesday, March 6 was Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent.
What’s Ash Wednesday? If you look in the Bible for Ash Wednesday, you won’t find it. It was developed later as part of a faith formational process for new Christians who wanted to be baptized.
All through Bible history, 40 has been an important number. Jesus was tempted for 40 days in the wilderness. The people of God wandered for 40 years in the desert. The Ark was adrift 40 days and 40 nights. The number 40 seems to be, in Biblical terms, the amount of time in which God works in us to bring us into a new beginning.
Shortly after 313 AD when the church put together a faith formational process for people wanting to be baptized, they realized the best time to celebrate a new beginning is Jesus’ Resurrection day: Easter. So, a 40-day season (excluding Sundays) was set aside leading up to Easter, and Ash Wednesday marked the beginning of that 40-day season of intentional spiritual deepening, called Lent (which means ‘spring’).
Faith starts with confessing one’s need for the Lord. The first day of that faith formational season became ‘Ash’ Wednesday because from ancient times, people would put ashes on their heads to express humility. This practice says to God, “I know who I am. Without you, I’m just molecules waiting to return to the dust.” But as an expression of faith and hope, the ashes are placed on the head in the shape of a cross. It was through the cross that Jesus died for the sins of the world. That ash cross is the mark of hope that because of Jesus, this person’s future won’t end in ashes, but in resurrection. The 40 days of Lent are set aside to remember why Jesus took that journey to the cross, so on Resurrection Day, when celebrating Jesus’ victory, we remember his victory is ours as well. Although this started long ago as a way to train in ‘newbie’ Christians, so many were impacted by its purpose, which it still remains a yearly spiritual discipline in many churches today.
(Adapted from Pastor Way, Community of Grace Church)
What choice do you have in loving others? “Do it, or, not do it?” is that the question. Why did Jesus say, “Do what I do!” Perhaps the following story can help us get a perspective on the subject…
Judge Me by the Footprints I Leave Behind
A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in the war.
He called his parents from another state.
“Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I’ve got a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring with me.”
“Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”
“There’s something you should know the son continued, “he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mined and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.”
“No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.”
“Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”
At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him.
A few days later, however, they received a call from the police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was self inflicted. The grief-stricken parents flew to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.
The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we think we are.
Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are.
Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all be more understanding of those who are different from us!
There’s a miracle called -Friendship- that dwells in the heart. You don’t know how it happens or when it gets started. But you know the special lift It always brings and you realize that Friendship Is God’s most precious gift!
Friends are a very rare jewel, indeed. Friends make you smile and encourage you to succeed. They lend an ear, they share a word of praise, and they always want to open their hearts to us.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER!