The Easter prep (Lent) season, which begins on Ash Wednesday and continues until Holy Saturday, is full of meaning for us.
On Wednesday, February 14, millions of our brothers and sisters around the globe will have a bit of ash on their foreheads in the form of a cross. Though our denomination doesn’t observe this as an annual tradition, it has meaning for many denominations, including Methodists, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics, Lutherans, and some Baptists, who consider this a holy day. The ashes are accompanied with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you will return.”
Whether or not we put ash on our foreheads, it is right to consider the point of Ash Wednesday. The act is a solemn and humble reminder of our mortality and our need for reconciliation with God, which we achieve only through Jesus Christ. And it is a good way to begin the Easter Preparation season.
As we leave the season of Epiphany, which focuses on the manifestation of the incarnation – God becoming flesh as the light of the world, we enter the life of Jesus, and we see shadows that prevent the light from fully shining through. We read the Gospels and see the hostilities thrown at him. We see his heaviness of heart as he laments over the stubbornness of the religious leaders. We see his frustration over the inability of his disciples to get along and see the bigger picture. We see his humanity as he talks about betrayal and death. We see his tears and sorrow over the pain and suffering of the world he came to save. We see his determination to keep heading toward Jerusalem, his trial, the torturous beatings, and the cross.
His journey toward the cross starts in the desert, where he is tended to by the heavenly hosts and is strengthened and fortified by spending time with his Father before he is attacked and tested by Satan himself. This attack is just the first of many he experienced during his three and a half years of ministry. He truly was the suffering servant Isaiah prophesied about. We walk alongside Jesus during this season, looking at his example, marveling at his faith, seeking to know his heart.
This season can be summed up with words from the Gospel of Mark:
If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. (Mark 8:34-35 NRSVUE)
This season gives us an annual reminder that we are nothing without Jesus. He is the reason we are forgiven, chosen, loved, saved, and adopted. Everything we have and everything we are is because of his great love for us. This is a good season to focus on self-examination and repentance, to spend more time in prayer seeking to know God, to read and mediate on God’s word – specifically focusing on the life of our Lord.
Carmen Fleming has written a spiritual formation article to accompany this season, which I encourage you to read.
I pray you have a meaningful Easter Preparation season,