Ash Wednesday / First Day of Lent

Speaker: James Piper

Hello all! I am very happy to see you here. Spending a week night at church is not easy, schedules are tough, we are meeting at night to accommodate people like myself who has to work. I am sure many of us have an unbalanced work and personal life, so time is valuable. Thank you for coming and I hope this kind of service will happen again soon.

Lent and events such as Ash Wednesday are foreign to me. In my previous faith tradition, we did not have special services other than for Easter. I find that a shame, the Lent season is a good opportunity to take inventory of our lives and how we can be better human beings and disciples.

First, I think it is important that we go over the Lent Season. I got this from the worship helps on

What Is Lent?

Lent is a time for personal and corporate spiritual renewal, a pilgrimage with Jesus. While the word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon lencten, which means “spring” (a time of the lengthening of days), on the Christian calendar it falls on the forty days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. This season grows out of the Jewish Passover celebration and the rites of initiation and passage from many cultures. The focus of Lent and Easter in the Gospels is caught up in a simple expression: “Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ comes again. A good place to begin the Lenten pilgrimage is in careful study of the scriptural accounts of Jesus’ journey to the cross and resurrection. If it is not possible to plan special services for all of the sacred moments of the season, time should be provided in Sunday worship services to include the reading of the scriptures that share the complete story of Christ’s passion, not just the joyful conclusion. Easter cannot be fully appreciated without a genuine sense of the loss and death that precede it.

The Lenten season begins with Ash Wednesday, an ancient holy day in the Christian calendar. In scripture, ashes paradoxically signify grief, sin, and human mortality while also symbolizing joy, forgiveness, and victory over death. In ancient France, those who were recognized in the community as sinners appeared in public wearing ashes. Soon it became the custom that every Christian wore the sign of the ashes on the first day of Lent to signify that each person was a sinner and needed to repent and be forgiven. In some congregations, the ashes are traditionally created by burning the palm branches that were used in Palm Sunday celebrations the previous year.

The Lenten season continues in reflection and self-examination. In essence we are called into the wilderness like Israel and Jesus before us to prepare for something new. In this wilderness we confront the most painful parts of ourselves, face our weaknesses, and search for our path to newness. The community gathers to study, share, and worship, providing support and structure for the journey. We travel together with Jesus toward Jerusalem.

Palm Sunday has traditionally been celebrative, focusing on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. However, in recent years, especially if no other Holy Week services are held, the scope has enlarged to include a focus on the passion narrative and the name of the day is changed to “Passion Sunday.” After the reading of the Passion, there is a somber and quiet reflection on the events of the days to follow in Jesus’ life.

Perhaps the least understood of the days in Holy Week is “maundy Thursday.” While this is the night on which the Lord’s Supper was first celebrated, there is a deeper meaning. The actual Latin word from which “maundy” is derived means “command.” The central theme of that first Lord’s Supper was one of humble service. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples and commanded that the disciples do the same for each other. Jesus taught that he came not to be served but to serve, to share the hospitality of God and the intimacy of breaking bread together.

On Good Friday we are in mourning and a somber tone is appropriate. In some Christian traditions, a meditation service is based on the “seven last words” of Jesus on the cross. Others commemorate the events of Good Friday with a traditional “tenebrae” service, progressively extinguishing candle flames until all worshipers are plunged symbolically into darkness. Perhaps the most important part of the Good Friday remembrance is its closure. Easter Sunday is coming but hasn’t arrived. Good Friday ends in silent mourning for the death of Jesus.

Some traditions observe Holy Saturday as a day of fasting, reflecting the quiet Jewish Sabbath and Christ’s rest in the tomb. The somewhat hopeless feelings of Good Friday and Holy Saturday remind us of the scriptural promise: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Psalm 30:5 NRSV), Easter morning!

At the end of the Lenten pilgrimage, on Easter Sunday, services sometimes begin in a somber tone and progress through the remainder of the scriptural story, building toward a climax of great joy in the resurrection.

The season of Lent helps us to center our attention on Jesus as we remember his life and ministry. It provides a time to sharpen the focus on our own lives in relationship to Jesus and the things that distract or block our commitment to discipleship. I have things to work on and will use the Lent season to tackle them. Those things get in my way of being a better person. Distractions and waste of time activities are the work an adversarial spirit, designed to make us develop slower.

Jesus had how own temptations in Matthew 4

4 Then was Jesus led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He afterward hungered.

And when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If Thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.’”

Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, and set Him on a pinnacle of the temple, and

said unto Him, “If Thou be the Son of God, cast Thyself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.’”

Jesus said unto him, “It is written again: ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’”

Again, the devil took Him up onto an exceeding high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them,

and said unto Him, “All these things will I give Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

10 Then said Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, Satan! For it is written: ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.’”

11 Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered unto Him.

Jesus was tempted by the adversary to commit Sin, I could only imagine what this looked like for him, surely he could do the things that the Devil asked, turning rocks to bread as an example but he abstained. It is our turn to abstain, make each one of us better people, so the world can be a better place.

I invite you at this time to share how you plan to focus on the gift of Jesus Christ and remember the crucified and risen Lord. What difference does Lent make in our lives? How do you remember Jesus’ sacrifice for us?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *