LENT: the sacred observance in preparation for the Easter Season and Easter Sunday specifically.
LENT, in the early church, was the time that new members prepared themselves for baptism into the membership (on Easter Sunday) through fasting, study and prayer. It is a traditional time, in most mainline churches and some evangelical circles, for the recognition of our sins and our mortality; to get closer to God and sacrifice our physical wants for our spiritual needs.
I can remember, from early memory, seeing people on Ash Wednesday with ash on their foreheads and thinking (since it was generally just a few people) that they had bumped into something or accidentally gotten something wiped on them. Kids at school would sometimes be dismissed from lunch and come back (obviously from noon worship services) with ashes on their foreheads, embarrassed and a little reluctant to speak about what happened at noon.
When I moved to Seattle, as a college student, I remember being downtown on Ash Wednesday one year, and seeing a slick-looking businessman carrying his briefcase, off to a meeting somewhere…with a smear of an ashen cross on his forehead. Somewhere behind him in a crowd was a young mother with two small children, each with an ashen cross. There was an older Hispanic man and his wife, a Chinese woman, a young black man working as a messenger on a bike, all with the ashen crosses that day. And I saw, for the first time, the many faces of the children of God, all blessed with HIS cross on their foreheads. People who didn’t know each other, and if they did, may not get along as we would hope but all of them under God’s care at that moment in time; the cross binding them together. And as he hung on the cross, dying, Jesus saw them all…and more.
It is good for us to remember, this Ash Wednesday, and each day, that the faces, attitudes, ages, races, orientations, personalities, gifts, needs, and wants, of those who Believe & Follow Jesus, are numerous. But we sing together in harmony not unison. We sing the same song, but in a variety of parts. We are many voices in the same choir…with one director. We may not see eye-to-eye…but we will be face-to-face with the one who created us all…from dust, covered by the cross that signifies the price paid for our admittance to the feast.
Let us all try, for at least 40 days (if not more) to treat our fellow Believers & Followers of Jesus, and ALL humans as fellow members of the same loving family with the same loving Father…if we do nothing else this Lenten Season…that would be enough, and it might change the world.