Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Ash Wednesday

The way we approach Lent in the social media age is...weird. I appreciate the efforts of the #ashtag phenomenon to draw more people into basic Christian concepts and make it less scary, but I can't bring myself to participate because it's a pun (shudder). But the Instagram and Facebook pictures of smiling people with black smudges on their foreheads is...weird. Not good. Not bad. Just...weird. We are strange people. In the Old Testament, ashes would be accompanied by sackcloth and weeping. But we are a redeemed people, so smiling as we confess our sins and our need for a Redeemer can't be entirely inappropriate.

But I think what I fear is that we often approach Lent with a New Year's Resolution or Fad Diet sort of mentality, and it looks like this: "Give up chocolate for forty days, dust off your Bible, and all the problems in your life and your walk with God will just disappear." This comes with exceptions of course: only give up chocolate when you want to and don't worry about it if it get's really hard, and don't actually ready the Bible, just take it off the shelf, put it on the table, and dust it off. Somehow, this is is supposed to make us saints or fix what's wrong in our lives.

But the Collect for Ash Wednesday really helps to highlight what this season is all about:
Grant, O Lord,that we may begin with holy fasting
this campaign of Christian service,
so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils,
we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.
This season is about doing battle against evil, and self-restraint is our weapon. So we want to start taking seriously the distance, the depth of the chasm, between us and God. We have to start taking very seriously the sins that divide us from God. I can almost guarantee that chocolate isn't what divides you from God. Sin is. And so sin is what you need to do something about.

Sin is a tricky beast. For myself, I have to admit that the reason I sin is because I love my sin more than I love God. Now, I repent of it afterwards and I go to confession, but in the moment, yeah, I love the sin that I commit more than the God who offers the grace to overcome it.

So we need to approach Lent with the Cross and Resurrection in view. We're trying to do something, however pitiful, to bridge the gap between ourselves and God. Ultimately, we cannot bridge the gap on our own, but God rejoices in the slightest effort on our part and rushes into our lives to do the rest. Keep the Cross and Resurrection as the real focus this Lent and every season of your life, make some meaningful effort to eradicate sin, and God will rejoice to draw you to himself.

No comments:

Post a Comment