My first Lent in Springfield

We started a Wednesday Night Bible Study series on Ash Wednesday called Eyeing Easter. Former Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Denton Lotz wrote the material and invited his readers to take a journey of personal reflection during this “in between time” called Lent. Ash Wednesday reminds us of our sin and death sentence, while Easter signifies life and deliverance. During the 40 days, Christians should struggle with who we are sinners and seek a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and others.

Baptists haven’t typically been big observers of Lent, and I suspect it is because of a reaction to the medieval church and its traditions. There aren’t too many churches in Baptistland who offer any reference to the time leading up Easter; much the same way that Advent is neglected. While not getting into the ashes on the forehead myself, I do acknowledge that it is a big part of the holy season for many believers in the wider Christian world. I spoke with one of my pastor friends from the Presbyterian branch who said there was an Ash Wednesday service, including ashes for those who wanted them. It can be a very meaningful thing. Unfortunately, there are images of revelry during Mardi Gras in New Orleans on Tuesday and then those same persons filing into St. Louis Cathedral for those ashes that signify repentance. It can be confusing.

What I’ve been thinking about here lately is my own mortality and the importance of being thankful for each day that comes. There were a number of disturbing images on TV the last few days of devastation in TN and north Arkansas, as dozens were killed and many more had their belongings scattered by those horrible winds. Union University in Jackson, TN had a direct hit and a women’s dorm was completely destroyed. Remarkably, no one was killed in that impact. Many who came out that experience were praising God for his deliverance, yet I wonder about all those others who may have called out prior to their death. There is a mystery about these “acts of God” that cannot be explained. I don’t deserve the blessings I receive, so when my car didn’t start this morning because the lights were left on all night I took it in stride.

Lent provides an opportunity to reflect upon my sinfulness and need for forgiveness. It’s also a time to recall where I was this time last year and where I am today. A lot has taken place, and much has been learned. This is an “in between” time. I will seek to slow down enough to make these 40 days meaningful.

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