Today is Ash Wednesday. It’s a day Southern Baptists often don’t observe. At least that is my own personal story. Celebrating Easter is joyous. But observe lent? Give up something? That just wasn’t in my background. Until a few years ago.
My pastor, Dr. Rick Thompson, has led our church in the past few years to not only focus on the resurrection, but to focus on the cross. There would be no resurrection if there had been no cross. No sacrifice. No perfect, unblemished sacrifice.
One of my friends recently returned from India where he observed the Muslim holidayof Eid al-Adha. He had taken a group of university students to watch the slaughter of goat after goat. He said it was gruesome and difficult to watch. The thought of slitting an animal’s throat and seeing all the blood is not a picture this city girl really wants to experience.
A blood sacrifice is not something our western ears or eyes are familiar with. But shouldn’t we consider the ultimate sacrifice that gave us freedom from continuing the slaughter of imperfect sacrifices? As New Testament believers, we realize there was only one substitution for sin– Jesus Christ. I love how Eugene Peterson paraphrased Romans 3:25 in The Message. “God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public–to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now–this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.”
So today I consider the season of lent. What sacrifice will I make this season to help me focus on the cross? How will I use these 40 days to draw closer to the one who created me and gave His all for me? In the past I’ve fasted from chocolate, coffee and soda. Each time I was tempted to want those things, it caused me to consider how little a sacrifice food is in comparison to the cross. But this year I still haven’t decided how I will fast. I’ve decided it’s not about the fasting of a worldly pleasure as much as the development of my heart. Instead of just skipping the Diet Coke, I’m consider how much different my life might be if I memorized one verse a day for the next 40 days. Would that cause me to consider my Savior more if I immersed myself into His word and hid it in my heart?
Will you consider the lent season? How will you prepare your heart for Easter? Is there something you need to “give up” for 40 days? Or is there something you need to “add” to your spiritual walk? I’d like to know what God is teaching you today about lent.
“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Joel 2:12