By Rev. Rob Bruce
Pastor at Tate UMC
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. At Tate UMC as well as some other churches we celebrated by the imposition of ashes in the sign of the cross on our foreheads while hearing the words, “You are dust and to the dust you shall return. Repent and believe the gospel.”
Lent is an important time in the church year. It is the time of year we reflect on our own mortality as we travel to the cross. Just as we cannot have Easter morning without Good Friday, we cannot be prepared for Easter without our time in the wilderness.
Where does the concept of Lent come from?
At Jesus’ baptism the sky split open, the Spirit of God, which looked like a dove, descended and landed on Jesus, and a voice from Heaven said, “This is my Son, My Beloved, with whom I am pleased.” Afterward, as told in Matthew 4:1-11, Jesus hiked into the wilderness. Maybe he needed some time with God to sort through the major changes happening in his life. Maybe he was searching for direction and answers. Maybe he needed to get away from family, friends and the familiar routine in order to see God, and himself, more clearly. For whatever reason, Jesus retreated into the wilderness for forty days to fast and pray. Lent is 40 days for us to fast, pray, and reflect as we make our way to the cross and resurrection.
What does Lent have to do with me?
It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the drama of work, school, relationships and family. Our lives are filled with distractions that take us away from living a life with Christ. We try to fill the emptiness inside us with mindless TV, meaningless chatter, stimulants, alcohol or other things. We run from silence because we’re afraid of being alone with God. So, like Jesus, we need to take some serious time to pray and figure out where God is in our lives, and where God is calling us to serve. We need to re-focus our lives to be more in line with God.
How do Christians celebrate Lent?
Normally we give up something. However, this year instead of giving up something (which often becomes self-serving), I ask you to add something. I am asking you to devote some time each day to a quiet time with God. Do not be afraid of being alone with God. It is in the time spent alone with God that we become closer to Him and understand more about ourselves. This is a time that can be transformative. Pick up a copy of the Upper Room or other devotional guide that your church may offer and use it for a time of daily reflection.