It is a time to remember and reflect. It is celebrated all over the world, and today, people will remember the passion and the purpose of Jesus Christ as they participate in a variety of services for Ash Wednesday.
Rev. Trey Harper, pastor of Forrest First United Methodist Church in Forest, Miss. said, the Season of Lent is the time in which the church “slows down to prepare our hearts for the Passion of Christ and the Glories of Resurrection Sunday.” Harper said in Western Christianity, Ash Wednesday marks the first day, or the start of, the season of Lent, which begins 40 days prior to Easter, not including Sundays, because every Sunday is to be treated as a Celebration of the Resurrected Christ.
Harper said Lenten preparation is often marked by observing the spiritual disciplines of prayer, Bible study, special worship, fasting, works of charity and repentance.
“The purpose of this set aside time for reflection on Jesus Christ – his suffering and his sacrifice, his life, death, burial and resurrection,” Harper said. “Most often the discipline of fasting involves ‘giving up’ something for the entire 40 days of the season. This practice reminds us not only of the sacrifice of Christ, but that all good things in this life come to us as a result of God’s abundant grace.”
“For me, Lent is when I take stock of my life,” Harper said. “While this is something I should be doing continuously, Lent gives me the nudge I need to really think seriously about things. The example of Jesus’ desert temptation, when he sorts out what he’s called to do, and prayerfully finds the courage to say no to things that are temptingly sweet but don’t fulfill that calling, is a powerful image for me.”
Harper said this time of reflection is not only on his personal spiritual journey; but also on his ministry as well.
“Thus, as my congregation is called to personal reflection in their individual lives; we as the church are called to reflect on our life together,” Harper said. “Another powerful image from Scripture for me is when Jesus cleanses the Temple following his Triumphant Entry which we celebrate on Palm Sunday.”
Harper said we need to use this time to allow the Spirit of God to drive out the cobwebs and the stuff that often overfills our lives so that we have less room for Him.
“Only then, can we become the people (and church) we were intended to be,” Harper said.
Finally, Lent also means that Easter is right around the corner.
“And regardless of how well or how poorly I’ve lived through the discipline of Lent, Easter will come as the assurance of God’s love, without condition and without exception,” Harper said.
Pastor Rochelle Ashford-Minor of Liberty United Methodist Church of Eupora, Miss. said Ash Wednesday is an important time in the life of the church.
“It is a special time for reflection, fasting and repentance,” Ashford-Minor said. “It is a time for remembering just what Jesus Christ has done for us.”
Scarlet Shepperd of Maben United Methodist Church in Maben, Miss, said during Lent, we will set our faces toward the cross as we focus our sermons and worship around the aspects of our lives which are not always in line with the cross.
“The season of Lent is important to the life of the church because without remembering the cross and our part in the crucifixion we can never truly experience the wonder and joy of the resurrection,” Shepperd said. “Our journey through Lent helps us to personally accept our sin and our failures so that we can fully embrace the forgiving love and grace of Jesus.”
See more of this story in the February 27, 2014 edition of The Webster Progress Times: