Something Don’d On Me! 2-26-20

Psalm 51:7-10: Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice. Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity. Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
 
Many of you may be reading this on Ash Wednesday.  “What is Ash Wednesday, Don?” Well thank you for asking…let’s chat about it for a minute! If you grew up in a Liturgical Background (Catholic, Presbyterian, Episcopal, etc.) you may have participated in a service on this particular Wednesday called “Ash Wednesday.” Frequently, the Pastor/Priest would pray over you and possibly make the Sign of the Cross on your forehead with ashes. This was to symbolize the penitent heart and to create a somber mood of reflection on our sins. This happens on the 40th Day PRIOR to Easter (not counting Sundays) representing the 40 days that Jesus spent in the Wilderness after His Baptism. It also signifies the beginning of the Lent Season.
 
This is also the time of year that our friends in New Orleans have Mardi Gras. Often called “Fat Tuesday”, it’s NOT a time for you to make fun of skinny people! (As much fun as that sounds!) This was based on the French idea of “one last party…one last time to get fat” if you are to abstain from something for 40 days. There are often parades, King Cake, and bright colors! And the colors actually have significance: purple for justice, green for faith, & gold for power! Fun side note: Louisiana is the only state in the Union to hold Fat Tuesday as a holiday!
 
“Ok, Don…thanks for the Wikipedia entry…get to a point.” This season can bring about a lot of questions. I personally was not raised in a background where Lent was celebrated. I did, however, have many friends that DID celebrate Lent. If you celebrate Lent, fantastic! Do it right!
 
Lent was NEVER to be about what you “gave up.” Too many people are quick to declare what they are doing: “I gave up chocolate for Lent.” “I’m not having caffeine for Lent.” The focus quickly shifts to our OWN ACTIONS…and how great we are for giving up something! LENT was always meant to be a reminder to take AWAY the things that are taking away our focus from Christ! And Lent should ALWAYS have a component that says, “Instead of chocolate, I’m going to have a time of prayer.” “Instead of caffeine, I’m going to use that money I would’ve spent on my morning cappuccino, and give it to our Mission project.” The thing that will make your Lenten experience more memorable is NOT what you give up…but what you put BACK!
 
Similar to the Spiritual Disciplines of Prayer, Fasting, Study and Service…Lent was never meant to “measure how good your Christianity is!” Lent was always designed to be a practice that helps to draw the believer in closer to the PRESENCE of Jesus!
 
If you choose to practice Lent this year, may I encourage you in this: read the verse above from Psalm 51. In this moment, David is seeing his own son suffer due to David’s own sin. His response? Cleanse me O God! PURIFY me-give me a CLEAN heart!” David’s HONESTY and transparency is what I believe God is looking for in US!  TAKE TIME to examine your own heart! Take notice of the things that you’ve “held on to” this year…and let them go! And may this season cause YOU…to be drawn into the presence of our Brother Jesus! May God cleanse us all…and RENEW a steadfast Spirit in each one of us!
 
“Almighty God. May these ashes and this contrite heart remind us of Your Unending Mercy! May we walk each day closer to you, and may the image of Jesus be reflected in our lives!”
 
Shalom Alachiem – May the Peace of God Be Upon You – Don