Message from Kathy (DPS)
Time. Sometimes I contemplate big ideas like time. (I know, I’m weird like that.) It is interesting how we take for granted the way we keep track of the hours in our days or the seasons of the year or the holidays in our culture. It’s mid-February, and after that big cold snap, I suspect some of you are fully aware that the official start of spring is less than a month away! Yes, warmer weather and green grass will one day arrive again. God has set the sun and stars in place to give us times and seasons. He masterfully rotates the earth to give us night and day. “There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1
As you know our Church Year Calendar marks events and times too. Some of them are on not on regular calendar and other events are merely mentioned. On Wednesday the season of Lent began with Ash Wednesday, a time when we remember that ‘We are dust and to dust we shall return.” This reminds us of our humanity, when God made Adam from the dust of the ground and breathed life into him. We are marked with an ash cross on our foreheads. The ashes are a reminder of our sin and brokenness, and the cross a reminder of God’s gift of forgiveness in Jesus death on the cross. This was the beginning of the Lenten season.
What is Lent and why is it the 40 days before Easter? Our Gospel reading from Mark 1:9-15 gives us a short narrative of Jesus’ baptism and after His baptism there is this one sentence in verses 12-13 that are a clue: “At once the Spirit sent Him out into the desert, and He was in the desert 40 days, being tempted by Satan.” Jesus fasted and ate nothing during the time before this temptation. He relied on the Word of God as His bread. The Old Testament has significant 40 time periods too: 40 days and nights of rain in the Flood and 40 years of the Israelites wandered in the desert before entering the Promised Land. After each 40 time period, a time of cleansing, testing, and temptation God provided His good gifts of a rainbow covenant, a Promised Land and Jesus’ victory over our old evil foe, Satan. This is why there are forty days of Lent, but what is the purpose of setting aside this time in the Church Calendar?
The ancient practice of Lent was to spend purposeful time in repentance and fasting (a temporary giving up of something that is normally good) and dedicating our time to solemn prayer and remembering the humiliation of Jesus on the cross to pay for our sins. Some traditions encourage the giving up or fasting from some luxury, like chocolate or a social media account or coffee or gaming and the alike. This fasting is to remind us to focus on the sacrifice of our Lord. During Lent we set aside extra time for prayer and reading God’s Word.
Another ancient practice is to put away or bury or set aside our singing of Alleluia and Gloria in the Divine Service. Why do this? Are we not still Easter people, forgiven and rejoicing in the resurrection of Jesus? Yes, we most certainly are, but the setting aside of the Alleluias, the powerful “Praise the Lord” is to remind us of the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf. There is a time for such solemn reflection and there is a time for loud and boisterous rejoicing too! Those Alleluias return on Easter morning, bursting forth from the throats of jubilant Christians who rejoice and say “He is risen in deed Alleluia!”
There are many things that we can do to help us focus our hearts and minds during this Lenten season. Lenten devotions are available to read, to help us focus on God’s Word. A practice of fasting or giving something up for the time of Lent helps others. You can set aside your Alleluias too. I am giving our Sunday School families, and anyone else who wants one an Alleluia Butterfly to colour and then set aside until Easter Morning. Our Alleluia Butterflies will ‘hibernate’ during Lent and return on April 4th! If you’d like to colour an Alleluia Butterfly email firstname.lastname@example.org and I can either send you one or print one for you that can be picked up at the church.
May God bless and keep you during this solemn time of year as we turn our hearts away from ourselves and towards our Lord.
Peace be with you!