This past Wednesday, we held a special service that ended with placing ashes on our foreheads. While the practice may seem strange at first, it is a powerful reminder each year about our human frailty. We can learn much about the meaning of life and death when we take the time to read the scriptures that address these things. We are not invincible. We will fail, often, and we will disappoint God. Lent is a time to accept this truth, reflect on it, and work toward growing better.
Jesus has invited us to change our hearts and to become more like him. How are you working toward doing that this Lenten season? Often, during this time of year, people “fast” in order to realign their vision toward God. They give up something like chocolate or television. The other common Lenten practice is “almsgiving,” which is a fancy word for giving to others. These things are wonderful, but they are not enough in themselves if we do not accept Jesus’ invitation to change our hearts as well.
As you give up something for lent this year, try replacing the time or energy that thing took up in your life with time spent with Jesus. Instead of watching television, pick up a new devotional book. Instead of eating chocolate, say a little prayer every time you have a craving. Encourage your family to practice “almsgiving” by taking some of your old clothes or toys to North Raleigh Ministries. While you’re there, ask how you can pray for their mission this month.
We fast and give alms during lent for reasons. We fast to reflect on our sins and accept our dependence on God. We give alms because we are overjoyed by the forgiveness that God offers us. Psalm 32 says,
Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.
For day and night
your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped
as in the heat of summer.
Then I acknowledged my sin to you
and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess
my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave
the guilt of my sin.
Therefore let all the faithful pray to you
while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters
will not reach them.
You are my hiding place;
you will protect me from trouble
and surround me with songs of deliverance.
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule,
which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle
or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked,
but the Lord’s unfailing love
surrounds the one who trusts in him.
Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous;
sing, all you who are upright in heart!
This lent, may we truly know and understand why we placed those ashes on our foreheads. May we seek forgiveness and rejoice in our Lord.