Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Ash Wednesday, Part the First...

Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred, I've never done the whole Lent thing before. The most attention I ever paid to such matters was during the two years we lived in New Orleans. I paid attention to Ash Wednesday then because it was the day after Mardi Gras and a great day off from school.

Last year on Ash Wednesday, I took our students from church to see The Passion of the Christ, and I remember going to eat afterwards, seeing many people with the ashes on their forehead, and trying to explain to our Southern Baptist born, Southern Baptist bred students what that was all about.

Today, however, has been different. If there was ever a time in my life I felt the need for repentance, refocusing, and renewal, now is one of those times.

Like I said, my tribe never "celebrated" Lent, (do you "celebrate" Lent? Maybe "commemorate" or "observe" might be better?) so I really don't even know where or how to start. On my way to the office this morning, I pulled into the parking lot of the big Catholic Church across the street, hoping to see some notice of an Ash Wednesday observance or whatever. No cars in the lot, but they are going to have a fish fry every Friday during Lent. I saw the banner advertising that! They also cancelled all "religious education classes" for the day, according to their message board. Nothing about Ash Wednesday or anything though.

I thought about calling my friend Revdude, because he, being a Methodist and all, would likely have some profound insight into the whole Lent thing. But I figured it was too early in the morning.

I tried to find "The Boy's" eighth-grade history teacher, who is now the rector of a local charismatic Episcopal church, with no success.

So I went into my office, pulled out the Book of Common Prayer (shhhhh...I won't tell the folks in Nashville or Atlanta if you won't!) and looked up the order of worship (see how Baptist I am - most folks who know any better call it the "liturgy," right?) for Ash Wednesday. Pretty good stuff!

That led me to Google for "Lent" and "Ash Wednesday." I found the Lenten Calendar at Simple Living. Its focus this year is on hunger. I looked up the scriptures they provided and found Matthew 6:1 and Isaiah 1:15-17.

So now I'm on a quest, a mission, if you will, to learn a little more about things liturgical, especially as relates to Ash Wednesday and this whole Lent thing. So far, I've found some neat stuff in Dorothy C. Bass's Receiving the Day: Christian Practices for Opening the Gift of Time and Robert E. Webber's Ancient-Future Time. Maybe I'll post some more from those in a while.

To wind up this long and tedious post, though, I will say this: What I have re-discovered is that God is not particularly interested in our outward observances, no matter how great or moving or emotional or whatever we think they are. He is ultimately interested in whether or not we are living for Him with our whole hearts and whether or not we are putting that wholehearted devotion into practice via loving, compassionate service to those around us. it's not so much about "giving up" as it is about "giving out." Maybe this little trip into Liturgical Calendar Land wil help me re-focus my life around that overarching principle.


Evolvingthinker said...

"...and whether or not we are putting that wholehearted devotion into practice via loving, compassionate service to those around us."

Thank you for the positive words. Sometimes I forget that religion isn't about judging and condeming, but is really about other things. I grew up Southern Baptist, but moved away from the church because of the judging and condeming and my inability to believe anymore.

simplyken said...

Hey there...I just realized that my current message series on regrets (repentance) coincided well with Lent. God thing? Maybe. Unintentional? For sure. It's still kind of cool. I saw a lady in the post office Ash Wednesday with ash on her forehead. She was the only I saw observing the day in that way. Very curious, especially since there'a a fair amount of ultra-traditionalist in my area.

Charlie said...

Ken...That is pretty interesting that you only saw one person with the ashes. Last night, our youth got together as they normally do on Wednesdays, and I noticed a girl I'd not seen before. She had come as a guest of some of our kids. Now this is the "punked out" tattooed and pierced group, and this young woman fit right in with them...kind of "Goth" looking and all that. Anyway, I was standing outside yapping at the end of the evening, and the kids all came out to leave, and I spoke to this girl. She turned around and I noticed she had the ashes on her forehead. Interesting, indeed...

U10DPilot said...

In my reading of Mathew 6:1 and Isaiah 1:14-17 doesn't it admonish against thisng like the wearing of ashes and making a public display of our fasting or woe. It would seem to me that the ash wednesday is a sacraafice which is not needed under the covenant of Christ.

I was raised American Baptist and have journeyed since my youth to a more simple faith and literal understanding of the Word of God. Ash Wednesday just strikes me as being wrong.