Today is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of 'Lent'. Lent is a period of 40 days during which time Christian believers typically 'give up something' as a spiritual reminder or 'act of devotion' to help them 'focus' on God in Christ during this time.
Some Christians 'do something' (i.e. volunteer work, of some kind) in lieu of abstaining from something. The point is to 'honor that which is much larger than our individual selves'.
We become 'unified' in all the world at this time. As a 'body of believers', we strongly remember that we are 'one' in the 'Body of Christ'...not just today, but on each day of the year, of course. But this time is definitely special for us.
Incidentally, the 'Sunday's of Lent do not 'count' as one of those '40 days of Lent', for each 'Sunday' of Lent is considered to be a 'little Easter'.
It seems that even during a time of 'self-denial', the Lord gives us 'constant reminders' of the glory that awaits each of us regarding the 'Resurrection Story'!
Whether or not a Christian continues to deny him or herself on these 'Sundays of Lent' is a matter of individual discernment. If your heart has a question, pray on it and you will receive your answer at once.
But the Kingdom of Christ, of course, is more than a collection of mere 'rules and regulations' and of 'does and don'ts'. In fact, rich tradition colors all the days of our liturgical lives.
For example, Christianity is replete with 'numerical significances' and in overlying 'themes', such as the 40 years of the Israelites in the desert:
"35 The Israelites ate manna forty years, until they came to a land that was settled; they ate manna until they reached the border of Canaan." Ex 16:35 (NIV)
the 40 days and nights during which Elijah fled to Horeb bolstered by an 'angelic meal':
"7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night." 1Kings 19:7-9 (NIV)
the 40 days that Jesus was tempted in the wilderness:
"1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Matthew 4:1-3 (NIV)
among others examples where the number '40' figures prominently, as it does during Lent.
I am not suggesting that anyone become overly-focused on 'numbers in the Bible'...but, rather, that we can enjoy our shared foundation with generations past, with an eye towards those believers yet to be born on this earth--our children, our grandchildren and our great-grandchildren!
If your faith life does not ordinarily include a Lenten commitment, won't you join us this year?
Won't you join us on this 'faith journey' as we travel onwards towards the blessed triumph known as Easter?
I pray you do!
Love, Rev. Barb
Rev. Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist-Where Science Meets the Cross"