Ash Wednesday Lenten Kit
Ash Wednesday is the symbolic day when the season of Lent begins. The Ash Wednesday service is designed to symbolically remind us that we are so much less without God in our lives. It is to remember that God continually seeks us, loves us, and offers us grace and forgiveness. Our role on this day is to open ourselves up to that. It is to confess those things and those times when we haven’t allowed God to do what God does best; love and forgive us. During the service, a pastor will often take the palms from last year’s Palm Sunday service, and burn those to create the ash. That too is symbolic in that we are entering into that time of remembering Jesus, and what Jesus did for us; the sacrifices he made on our behalf and his willingness to risk everything to love us. When I would burn the palms, I would add anointing oil that included frankincense symbolizing the healing he offered. I would add water from the Jordan River as a symbol of our baptism, and mix it all in the midst of the service. This year, I can’t do any of that, but the symbolism is still there. We are offered grace and forgiveness. We are called to live sacrificially for others. We are called to remember our baptism and our relationship with our Creator. We are called to take the kinds of actions that renew our relationships. The service of Ashes reminds us of all of that.
Toward the end of the service, we do what is called, “The imposition of ashes.” As people come forward to receive the imposition of the ashes; to commit themselves to spend this time to remember that we are not God. I would say, “From dust you came, to dust you shall return, but thanks be to God for Jesus Christ.” Friends, we become alive in Christ, and this is a reminder of all of that. So, this is the beginning of a time when we intentionally remember of it; all in the form of the ash that is then placed on our foreheads. Given the pandemic, this year we’ll be offering all of it in a personal packet form, available just outside the front office of the church.
As Lent Begins
Lent is a forty-day season of contemplation. The number “forty” when found in the scriptures always refers to a time of a new beginning. The story of the flood, the story of the Hebrews escaping Egypt and traveling in the wilderness, and the reference to Jesus and his time in the wilderness. It refers to a time of taking the old, or what had been in existence before, and moving through something that allowed it to become new again. Lent is such a time. The forty days do not include Sundays. Sundays are a day to find renewal and rest in the midst of the rigors of the Lenten Season. Finally, Lent leads us toward Holy Week and ultimately to Easter; the day when it all comes together, and we are truly reborn. So, as we approach this season, let’s approach it with all of that in mind. So, here are a few instructions that we hope will help you get the most out of these forty days.
First and foremost, please be aware that Kathleen and I are praying for you, and we will be throughout this season of Lent. Also, please be aware that both of us are taking on this season so that we too might be renewed. So, what is it we are to do in Lent? First, Lent isn’t simply about giving something up. We don’t give up chocolate or other elements simply to give them up. The purpose of giving something up is about creating space: to create a deeper focus on our faith and to create more time with God. It is to spend time focusing on Jesus in order to create a closer relationship with Him. It is about taking time to make sure the relationship is whole and sound, even to ask forgiveness for the things we’ve done that have created separation. Here’s what I mean. We might choose to give up a television show each evening in order to instead, spend that time in prayer. We give up a meal each day to spend that normal mealtime focused instead on being fed by Christ. The purpose of Lent is to deepen our faith, to be “blessed” as we kneel before our Creator whether physically or emotionally. Overall, it is a time set aside each year to search ourselves in ways we may not have done during the year, so that we can become something new. Finally, it is designed to be a quiet season, contemplative, and focused. So, we encourage you to take all of this on.
There will be a Zoom Lenten study on Tuesdays and an in-person Lenten study on Mondays. As we move into Phase II, we will be allowed to have 25 people in the church. For more information, please call the church office at (360) 683-5367.
Bible verses for contemplation during Lent:
Joel 2:12-14 Return to the Lord, your God
Matthew 6:16-18 Concerning fasting
Mark 1:13 Jesus tempted by Satan
Ecclesiastes 3:20 All are of the dust
Genesis 3:19 Dust to dust
Matthew 4:1-11 The Temptation of Jesus
1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+5%3A6&version=NRSV