How would you explain Ash Wednesday to another person?
The following is my attempt:
On Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent, the pastor applies ashes in the shape of the cross on the forehead of each participant while speaking the words, “For dust you are and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:19
The ashes remind us of our sinfulness, mortality and need to repent. The cross reminds us of the good news that through Jesus Christ crucified, there is forgiveness for all sins, all guilt and all punishment.
This ritual, however, is meaningless unless there is a corresponding inner repentance and a change of behavior in us. Often a part of the forty days of Lent is to “give up” something. We are invited to “give up” or fast from a behavior or action which separates us from God, others and the person God designed us to be. Likewise, we can “add to” our lives by including the ways of Jesus.
Which of the following changes in behavior or fasts might God be calling you to this Lenten Season? What behaviors or attitudes might you add?
Here are some suggestions by Ian Rees:
Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion
Fast from greed, Feast on sharing
Fast from scarcity, Feast on abundance
Fast from fear, Feast on peace
Fast from lies, Feast on truth
Fast from gossip, Feast on Praise
Fast from apathy, Feast on engagement
Fast from discontent, Feast on gratitude
Fast from noise, Feast on silence
Fast from discouragement, Feast on hope
Fast from hatred, Feast on love
Isaiah 58:5-7 (MSG) gives us more information on the kind of fast which God recommends:
Isaiah 58:7-9The Message (MSG)
6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts. What I’m interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families. Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’
What will be your fast? What will be your feast?
Photo Credit: John Ragai