Holy Week Preparation
February 7, 2015
I often think that we in the Baptist tradition, who avoid anything that seems like a religious ritual, miss out on some potentially powerful spiritual experiences. Experience such as may be a part of Ash Wednesday and Lent.
We often would completely forget about Ash Wednesday if not for seeing someone with an ash cross on their forehead. In Old Testament times, ashes were associated with repentance and grief over sinfulness (see Job 42:3-6, Jer. 6:26 and Dan. 9:3). Ash Wednesday Services often include readings of Psalm 51, which is David’s plea for forgiveness after raping Bathsheba and then killing her husband. Ash Wednesday Services always include Communion, a remembrance of Jesus’ death for human sin. The focus is on repentance and the price Jesus paid for our sin.
In the centuries following the death of Jesus, the traditions of Ash Wednesday and Lent evolved. Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, which signifies the forty day period before Easter. Forty has always been the Biblical number representing testing and wilderness (Moses’ forty days, the Israelite’s forty year in the wilderness and Jesus’ forty day period of testing).
The main point is that these traditions are a solemn observation of the great central act of history: the redemption of the human race by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is proper and valuable to take a time of our year, slow down the constant busyness of our lives, grieve over our sin, and reflect upon the incredible sacrifice of Jesus. Such deep reflection takes time, it cannot be done in fifteen minutes, or between TV commercials. Such deep reflection needs reminders. Say you ‘give up Starbucks for Lent’, each time you would normally have a Starbucks, you are instead reminded of Jesus’ sacrifice for you.
Regardless of your religious traditions, find some way to prepare your heart for the Holy Week of Good Friday and Easter. Ash Wednesday is February 18 this year. Give up a favorite treat or activity as an act of repentance and remembrance. Use the time to reflect on Jesus. If there is any money involved, give it to the needy. The greater the space you empty in your life during Lent, the greater will be the Easter joy.
Prayer: Dear Jesus, thank you for coming as a human into this world to pay the atonement for our sins. Forgive us of our shortcomings and help us to be more like you. Help us to take time this year to reflect upon your sacrifice for us. Amen.
(Pastor Reed listening to a testimony)
Reverend Tim Reed
Lake Avenue Baptist Church