Thursday, March 6, 2014

Thoughts About Ash Wednesday and Lent

A Time For Reflection and Redirection

Sunset in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Guest Post by M. K. Hand

You might notice people walking around with cross-shaped smudges on their foreheads. There is no "mystical" attribute assigned to this practice. The ashes are a physical reminder of our need for repentance, and a symbol of the dependency of humans on G-d's mercy through Jesus Christ.

Why ashes? The Bible speaks of man returning to dust and ashes (from whence he came), and Job smeared himself with dust and ashes as a symbol of atonement. Also, in the Old Testament, animals were sacrificed to G-d for atonement, and they were burnt to ashes. When Jesus came as a living sacrifice, the Law was no longer applicable, and animal sacrifices were no longer needed for atonement. Jesus was the final sacrifice...He ushered us into a time of Grace through Faith, once and for all.

Lent, the season leading up to Easter, is a time of increased attention to charity (love), prayer, and fasting for Christians. It is a special time to reflect, repent and rejoice. It prepares our hearts to fully take in and celebrate the sacrifice, atonement, and grace made possible by Jesus' crucifixion, and the restoration of our relationship, broken by our sin, with the Father. Many people fast, give up something meaningful to them, or turn away from a sin that has taken hold of their life; fasting is also a way to identify with the sacrifice made by Jesus at Calvary. May this time leading up to Easter be a time of reflection, repentance, and rejoicing for you!

"Therefore also now, saith the Lord, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your G-d: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil." ~ Joel 2:12-13

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