It was a strategy that worked well for us at Advent – so I thought -- why not use it for Lent? And so ---- Let’s begin with the end in mind. . .
So at the end of Lent comes Easter and the 50 day Easter season. Throughout the Easter season we always do something different. Instead of professing our faith using either the Apostle’s Creed or the Nicene Creed --- we do it by renewing our Baptismal promises ---- which, as you should recall – has us answer a series of question by saying “I do” to define ourselves as followers of Christ by what we reject – do we reject Satan and all his works and empty promises ----- and by what we embrace: do we believe in God the Father almighty, in Jesus Christ his only Son, and the Holy Spirit?
Yes, Christians define themselves by not only what they turn FROM --- but by what they turn TOWARD.
Lent, then, is the preparation period of 40 days that comes before Easter. It is a time to “whip ourselves into shape” so that we are ready to profess anew who we are as Christians and to make the commitment to do what Jesus did: live with compassion, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.
For some of us – there is plenty to do to get ourselves back on the path WITH Jesus because of how far we have strayed from his ways.
For others, there may not be any major changes --- maybe just be a little fine-tuning that needs to take place --- for no matter how hard we try to imitate the life and teachings of Jesus – everyone of us stray – if but a bit.
Lent, itself, always begins with a question that helps us do the major overhaul, or the fine tuning we need to be about in order re-align ourselves with Jesus.
The question for us this year as the Ashes are sprinkled upon us: WILL YOU TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD --- SEEK AFTER PEACE AND PURSUE IT?
That can be a tall task – and it will take some effort to achieve. But through our prayer, our fasting, and our almsgiving during these 40 days of Lent– we hope to achieve it.
And if we successfully practice turning away from evil and doing good – seeking after peace and pursuing it --------------------- then we should have no problem renewing those Baptismal promises every Sunday throughout the Easter season that commits us to follow after Jesus and doing what Jesus did: living with compassion, mercy, kindness, and forgiveness.
Ordinarily as you know – we would receive Ashes on our foreheads. Since that involves touching each and every one of you – which is not safe during these covid times – you will come forward – slightly bow your heads – and the Ashes will be sprinkled on the top of your head ------ which I understand is the practice elsewhere in the world --- it just hasn’t been our way in the United States.
Ashes are a sign of repentance – and the desire to “whip ourselves into shape” so that we can follow Christ more closely.
Moments in time...