Today, February 26, 2020 is Ash Wednesday.
For any of us who aren’t familiar with its meaning, today marks the first day of Lent in the Christian calendar. You’ll know if someone has observed this day by the recognizable smudge of ashes on their forehead. It marks a period of time, six and a half weeks to be exact, preceding Easter. It is during Lent that Christians around the world turn their hearts and minds toward fasting, repentance, prayer and self-control.
So what does the Bible say about Ash Wednesday? Although there is no specific date mentioned, Job of the Old Testament repents “in dust and ashes,”. There are plenty other mentions of wearing ashes as a sign of penitence from the Books in the Old Testament including Psalms and the prophets (all predating Jesus), right up through the New Testament.
What does it mean for me as an Evangelical? As a kid, my friends who were raised in churches that observed Ash Wednesday would give up things like chocolate or soda pop. Adults would give up television, bad habits, foods or other forms of dependency deemed worth giving up. As an unchurched youth I didn’t understand any of it. I just felt left out of the loop.
My home church will observe Ash Wednesday tonight and I will attend. This observance is not an exclusive right to any particular denomination or creed. Jesus died for me. For this I grieve. For His sacrifice I will look into my own heart and give up something that was nailed to the cross so that I don't have to bear its burden.
When my Pastor announced our church would observe Ash Wednesday, I felt the Spirit move immediately. So, I’m going to try and fast from…worry. It’s a default for me. Worry about this, worry about that. I’m way too comfortable with worry.
So there you have it. If you see me, call me out. Ask how I’m doing with fasting from this burdensome emotion. If, “I’m worried about…” comes out of my mouth, remind me that Jesus carries my burdens.
I’m going to try and fast, just like so many other Christians around the world fasting from their chosen sacrifice will be trying and fasting over these next six and a half weeks.
And if it doesn’t work, well there is always chocolate!