From The Pastor:
Pastor Michaele Wood
On Ash Wednesday we receive ashes on our forehead to remind us of our mortality. We remember that we are created from the dust of the earth and that one day we will return to dust. And so, we begin the time we have come to call Lent.
Lent is a season of preparation and repentance beginning with Ash Wednesday and ending with Easter Sunday. During Lent, the paraments in the church are changed to purple. The color purple is significant for two reasons in particular. First, it indicates a period of preparation, which is why we use it for both Lent, preceding Easter and Advent, and preceding Christmas.Secondly, purple is often related to persons of royal descent and, specifically, the welcoming of a King. For us that would be the two welcomes of Christ, our King: One to celebrate the birth, and the other to celebrate the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.
The early church felt that the celebration of Easter was of such importance that a time of special preparation was needed. In the early centuries, the season before Easter was also the usual period of intense training for new Christians. During this period, the catechumens (those preparing for baptism and learning what it meant to be Christians) went through the final stages of preparation for baptism, which usually occurred at dawn on Easter Sunday.
From the beginnings of Christianity, many Christians observed several days of fasting as part of that preparation. Early Christians considered it inappropriate to fast on the day of the resurrection [Easter], so Sundays were not counted in the 40 days. Thus, the Wednesday 46 days before Easter came to be regarded as the beginning of Lent.
Over the next few centuries, perhaps in remembrance of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–2), 40 days became the accepted length of the Lenten season. As the practice of infant baptism increased, the emphasis on Lent as a training period decreased. We, as a reformed church, do not adhere to a season of Lent as strictly as some others. We observe the Lenten time, but we do not specifically devote it to churchwide, mandated fasting or dedicated educational goals. Instead, most commonly, people focus on giving up some other vice or habit that might be detrimental to one’s health and well-being. Others of us may look to performing a good work or committing to a positive practice during this time. For us, Lent is a time to reflect on our own lives, or own habits and practices that weigh us down and prevent us from being the people God desires we be.
Lent is a time to reflect and see what we can change about our lives for the better. It can be used as a time to understand our own weaknesses and shortcomings, as painful as that can be. It is a time when we recall that we are mortal, we may be insignificant in the eyes of the world, but we are significant to God who cares about us and loves us unconditionally.
And what does God require of us? “He has told you, O Mortal, what is good: and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? [Micah 6:8]
Pastor Michaele Wood