People have asked and no, we’re not catholic. We go to a non-denominational Christian church, but in our family we often incorporate things that are found in other denominations (like Lent) or feasts and festivals (like Purim.) I’d like to say that we’re kind of Messianic Christian, but that’s not the church that we go to. I do like to have Jewish elements in our way of looking at God, Jesus was Jewish after all….I sometimes like the liturgy of some churches – repeating the Lord’s Prayer as a whole, using repetition and call and answer sayings and hymns, I do love a good hymn (that comes from being brought up Baptist.) I have always thought, as a Protestant Christian, that we ought to have something linking the time between Christmas and Easter. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized, duh, there is such a thing and it’s called Lent. Lent is something that Protestant churches are looking at and realizing that as a symbol and a time of waiting and looking forward to Easter, it can be a great thing. The church we went to for Ash Wednesday services is a Christian church (it wasn’t ours.) We were invited to worship, to reflect, to mediate, to come together to pray and say ‘Thanks be to God’ and, of course, to receive ashes as a symbol of the rending of our heart, our sorrow and our turning from sin to follow God. We were just reading Joel in our Bible study and the idea of ashes and praying and turning back to God is a big part of Joel, it was the perfect book to read leading up to today.
12 “Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
13 Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love.
The girls (except Hannah, she wasn’t quite sure what the ashes meant) and I got ashes on our foreheads. It’s unsettling at first, you really stand out with a black cross on your head. But, then you feel a sense of community when you see others throughout the day with the same mark. When we went to see Grandma Carberry a resident looked at my face and said, ‘Oh! It’s Ash Wednesday isn’t it? Can you give me some of your ashes?’ So, I rubbed a bit off and placed it on her forehead. The ashes also gave me an opportunity to share Jesus when a cashier asked why I had a mark on my forehead, she had a friend who was catholic, but the explanation of Lent didn’t quite make sense to her. I said, this is what it means to me: It means that I am expecting God to move in the next 40 days, I am waiting on Him and returning to Him with all of my heart. I am not just waiting though, I am going to replace things in my life with prayer and study, with God’s word and His thoughts. I want to fill these days before Easter with a sense of anticipation, I know what is going to happen – I am not waiting at a grave, I am waiting at an empty tomb for a risen Christ. But, just because I know how the story ends doesn’t mean that I can’t get excited about it.