For those of you that are not religiously inclined you may not know that this week is the start of Lent. Maybe (like one member I spoke to) you noticed a mark on your boss’ forehead and tried to be ‘helpful’ only to be told that it was Ash Wednesday! Whoops!!!
I don’t come from a tradition that celebrates Lent, but here is a quick guide to what it is all about. I’ve summarised it in three points:
- Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, the 40 days leading up to Easter. It is a time of preparation and carries with it the idea of self sacrifice and austerity. It is an opportunity for self examination and repentance as symbolised by the ash. For the purist the ashes are the burnt remains of the woven crosses (or the palms) from last year’s Palm Sunday.
- The purpose of all this is to stop and review your life, to cut down the ambient noise, by going to the desert (at least in a figurative sense) to be able to hear God’s word more clearly, and get serious about prayer!
- Finally there is an aspect of giving to others who need help. There seems to be so many appeals for support and so many natural disasters, and it is easy to get compassion fatigue, but his period of Lent is to remind us in a concrete way that in reality we have so much more than most people in the world today.
Lent is an opportunity to rethink, to seriously reflect on who we are, where we are going and what we have been given. The key is to pause long enough to hear what God might be trying to say, no matter what your denominational label! If you want to start Lent on the right foot, why not join with God’s people at Church this Sunday.
Chaplain Ian S Whitley