Ash Wednesday is not typically known for being something Baptists observe. However, I have been drawn to the practice lately of getting the ashes and following the season of Lent. I think Ash Wednesday has a very Baptist message. The centrality of the message of Ash Wednesday is that we are broken sinful people living in a broken and sinful world. That we need God and God's salvation. It also recognizes that there are things that keep us from living and walking with Jesus. It asks us as disciples of Christ to reflect on our lives and humbly turn away from all the things that we have been putting up for barriers on our relationship with God.
Ash Wednesday begins the season of Lent. A time set aside for us to remember the cross and the cost of our salvation. In the time of reflection, we are called to action. Some common ways to practice Lent is to spend intentional time in prayer. I know many who may start there day with prayer and scripture, so during this time, they add an evening or lunch date with the Lord. Charity is another way to observe the season of Lent. Our faith is not one of emotion or thoughts, but of actions: our lives are called to be changed. So some people make this time a specific set season where they volunteer or give to causes and missions.
Finally, Lent is associated famously for its fasting. We are all aware that fast-food chains magically start offering out fish sandwiches during this time of the year.Giving up meat to eat fish is an old medieval practice. At it's heart is about fasting. Fasting is not round two of your New Years' resolution. Fasting is about grief. Fasting, particularly on Friday's is in recognition of the day Jesus died on the cross. It is mourning the cost of our salvation and a time to reflect on our own sins. Friday's during Lent become what Sunday's are for the rest of the year: day to remember Jesus. Only we don't celebrate the resurrection but sit in the pain of the cross in anticipation of Sunday. Typically when I fast, I do so out of solidarity with those who cannot eat. In my life as an American, I have access to the many benefits of my country. I recognize there are many Christians who do not have the benefits of my life. So I spend my days fasting to grieve the reality of the broken world for my brothers and sisters who are less fortunate.
A side note on the ashes. This is not about saying look at me I am better than you. It is a sign of grief. It is a public recognition that you and the world are broken and it needs a savior. It can be used for evangelism, but I see it as a way of unity. It is encouraging and powerful when I run into someone else who has ashes on their head. It reminds me that I am not alone in this walk of faith with God. It gives me hope that I am not alone as I see other's grieving over the broken world. It is not about the me being lifted up, but a visible sign declaring the brokenness of the world and our hope in Jesus Christ. Even more the beauty of it is it is not my message, but the message of all who bare the ashes.
As a Baptist, I recognize the observation of Ash Wednesday and Lent is not mandated by anyone. The day and season do not magically make me a better disciple of Christ. It does give me an opportunity to take a step back and try to better my relationship with God and others. So I wanted to share that with you all. Maybe there are some of you out there who this could be life-changing. Others might find the pattern wonderful and constructive. While still, some might find this to be too much and completely unhelpful. So to that, I say try it, if it doesn't work you have lost nothing. It can only add to your faith. Comment and let me know if you practice Ash Wednesday or Lent. Let me know if it has been successful for you. Also, let me know if you just going to try it.