According to the Christian liturgical calendar, today is Ash Wednesday. It is the beginning of Lent, a season of forty days leading up to Easter Sunday. Christians who observe Lent will participate in prayers, periods of fasting, and self-denial as a means of self-discipline and concentration unto the Lord.
Growing up in a Christian tradition that did not follow the liturgical calendar and therefore did not observe Lent, the purpose of Lent has always remained somewhat nebulous and maybe that is due in part to my own observance of this season. I have never attended an Ash Wednesday service and had ashes placed on my forehead, however the idea of remembering that I am but dust and shall return to dust, and therefore in need of repenting and believing in the gospel of Jesus Christ, is something I need to remember. I am give planning to practice some self-denial as I spend time in prayer, though prayer is a part of my daily life already, while anticipating Holy Week in remembrance of the suffering death of Jesus Christ upon the cross and his resurrection unto life upon the third day.
Yet as I think about Lent, it seems that the purpose is a way of reminding us that we are sinners in need of a Savior, who receive that salvation from God through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And that is why we might need to observe Lent more than ever.
Though we are all sinners, we live in a culture that increasingly forgets this. Even Christians, myself included, are not immune to this forgetfulness. There is a quickness to criticize and condemn others for their short-comings, just ask Cam Newton. Forgiveness, mercy… Not so! In the coming months, politicians will tear each other apart, painting each other in villainous way, and they will have plenty of help as people use social-media to pass along their same vitriol in memes, tweets, etc… Even when acknowledging our own sin… our mistakes, poor-judgment, and wrong doing, there is an ever temptation to mitigate such sin even though that same judgment isn’t extended to others.
This season of Lent, might we say “Enough!”
This season of Lent, might we say, “We are sinners and therefore are not in any position to condemn and criticize others!”
This season of Lent, might we say, “Lord, have mercy upon us and everyone else!”
This season of Lent, might we say, “Lord, teach us to be as merciful to others as you are merciful to us!
May this season of Lent remind us that we are all sinners! Not so that we can mitigate our sin but so that we will look to Jesus Christ, crucified and resurrected, through whom we all have the forgives of sins. Perhaps then, as we emerge forty days later from this season of Lent, we will not be a people who judge and condemn others but instead be a merciful people of who sing the praises of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, as the one who saves us all!
Lord, have mercy!