Wednesday, February 10 — Ash Wednesday

The beginning of our journey 

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness 40 days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. 

Mark 1: 12-13 

So what is Lent?

Lent is one of the oldest observations on the Christian calen-dar. Like all Christian holy days and holidays, it has changed over the years, but its purpose has always been the same: self-examination and penitence, demonstrated by self-denial, in preparation for Easter. Early church father Irenaus of Lyons (c. 130 – c. 200) wrote of such a season in the earliest days of the church, but back then it lasted only two or three days, not the 40 days that we observe today.

In 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a 40-day Lenten season of fasting. It soon encompassed the whole Church.

Although Lent is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible, there are plenty of biblical references to self-examination and listening to God. For example … after Jesus was baptized by John, a dove descended from heaven and rested upon him. A voice from heaven proclaimed, “This is my Son, the beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” It was a defining moment for Jesus and marked the formal pronouncement of his ministry.

Afterward, Jesus was sent into the wilderness by the Spirit, where he fasted and prayed for 40 days. During his time there he was tempted by Satan and found clarity and strength to resist temptation. From there, he actively began his ministry.

There are lots of ways to interpret this passage, but one makes sense as we begin this 40-day journey through Lent. Maybe Jesus needed some time with God to sort through the major changes happening in his life. Maybe he needed to get away from family, friends, and the familiar routine of life in order to see God (and himself) more clearly. Perhaps he wanted some intentional time with God as he searched for direction in what was sure to be a difficult journey.

Lent is a great time to step aside and return to God. May we take the time we need to pray and listen for his voice. May we embrace these 40 days as preparation for the journey that is around the corner. May we find blessing in this age-old ritual and hope for all that is to come.

Pastor Rhodes Woolly