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Seeking the renewal of all things through Jesus Christ
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Ash Wednesday and Lent

News for 02.09.16
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As we enter the season of Lent, we want to share with the congregation this week's "Practicing the Practices" -- Pastor Wade Bradshaw's observation on Ash Wednesday and the Lenten season. If you would like to receive "Practicing the Practices" regularly, sign up for either Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer.

This week we celebrate what is called Ash Wednesday—what most churches consider the beginning of the church season of Lent. Let's talk about this a moment since it may be unfamiliar to you. It may even have bad associations for you from previous experiences in which external rituals seemed to lack heartfelt reality.
There are several reasons Trinity began to organize our life around the church seasons and encourage celebrating these old ways. It is part of our encounter with our secular society. We live by the calendars of our culture—football season, the academic year, the fiscal year. But the Church organizes its time around the life of Jesus. Also, though we cannot see into each others' hearts, it is important that we do not live as if our faith is not embodied. So we do things that are tangible, things that we can see and smell and taste. Jesus, after all, shockingly became incarnate.
On Ash Wednesday we contemplate our mortality—that we are but dust and to dust we shall return. This isn't morbid. This is very wise. Throughout the Bible, we are taught to consider how brief our lives are, encouraged to number our days. This keeps us living with our eyes on the resurrection and the coming renewal of all things. It gives us the priorities of the Kingdom of God.
"Lent" is from an Old English word that means spring. The length of the season is calculated differently by different churches. This is nothing to get concerned about or argue over. (Different families put their Christmas trees up at different times.) But usually Lent is about 40 days or about 6 weeks long, running from AshWednesday until the week of Easter.
During this season, what aspect of Jesus' life do we consider?
We think about His suffering and why it was that God's only Son had to endure so much. And that, of course, leads us to a contemplation of our sin. We do not just make mistakes: we love things that are wrong, and we do so even though we know they are not God's will for us. Again, this isn't gloomy—it's realistic.  We ask God's Spirit to search us, examining our lives for any ways that we oppose the plan of Jesus to renew all things.
So what's the deal with Lent and giving stuff up?
This is a way people can talk about "fasting." It is a healthy practice during Lent to fast—not from things that are bad for you, or that you shouldn't be doing in any case. No, we fast from good things, and we use this deprivation as a means of recalling the season and how Jesus emptied Himself of so much to live among us. Surely this must have been one part of His suffering. The 40 days of Lent are, in fact, a remembrance of Jesus' own long fast in the wilderness, led there by the Spirit to prepare for public ministry and to face the temptations of the Devil.

But we do not fast on Sundays. That is always a feast day tied to the resurrection, and even during Lent it's a celebration.
Fasting together as a family or a household might be a great experience where you can talk about these things. But no one must feel like they have to participate in a fast, and ordinarily it's best to keep such things, if not a strict secret, at least on the down-low so that we do not fall into doing things to be seen by others.
During this season we break away from our usual lectionary that takes us through the Scriptures in four years. We shall read mostly from the New Testament and about things to help us think about the reconciliation in Jesus and His overcoming of sin and death for us.