This week is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a season in which the people of God prepare for the day of Resurrection. Lent lasts for 40 days and nights, minus Sundays, beginning on Ash Wednesday and concluding with the Easter Vigil. The Easter Vigil is the Saturday before Easter. When translated, Lent literally means spring.
Many denominations will hold a solemn worship service on Ash Wednesday to focus on the beginning of this very holy time. Typically, many will celebrate the Sacrament of Holy Communion and incorporate the ancient practice of the “Imposition of Ashes.” Words from Genesis 3:19 are spoken as the sign of the cross is imposed upon the forehead reminding us that “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” The ashes used for this sacred and meaningful event are created from the previous year’s dried palm branches from Palm Sunday. They are burned, and the ashes are combined with olive oil to be used.
Many people will choose to take away something from their everyday life that they enjoy as part of their personal faith enrichment program. (I am not speaking against this practice at all, for many it is very meaningful and important.) Some of us cannot function properly without copious amounts of coffee every day. If this describes your situation, giving up coffee may not be beneficial to the Body of Christ.
What if rather than taking something away, we all choose to add behaviors that lift up and bless those around us? What if we make a conscious effort to smile even when we feel like frowning or cursing? What if we help someone who doesn’t expect to be helped? What if we offer a note or text of encouragement to someone we have lost touch with, even before the pandemic? Make a deliberate effort to connect with people that we know have been isolated. Offer new and creative ways to bless others even when we are unable to interact in close proximity. You may have an idea that none of us have thought of.
What if we add praying for the millions of Christians suffering under persecution in various Muslim and Communist countries around the world? Pray for those who have recently lost their source of income due to the persistence of the pandemic and executive orders canceling thousands of jobs. Pray for every family who has lost a loved one during the past year. Pray that they will find peace during the coming months. Pray that God will send you to bring peace to those around you.
If your car started today in this -25 degree weather, say a prayer of thanksgiving for that! Look around to see if you can help someone whose car didn’t start. If you live in a warm house, invite someone over who struggles to keep warm on these cold days. If you have been blessed with abundance, offer to share with others who could use some help. Remember to “Do unto the least of these” as if you were doing unto Jesus himself. I promise you that you will be blessed even more than those you are blessing.
Always remember that good works are not the mechanism of your salvation. They are the response of gratitude motivated by true faith that we offer to God for all that we have been blessed with. What if you are the instrument that God is using to answer someone else’s prayers? You have been blessed to be a blessing. Perhaps you, like Esther, were born for a time such as this. May God bless you during this Season of Lent.