by Dr. Foster H. Shannon
Ash Wednesday is right in front of us: Wednesday, March 5. The idea is to begin preparation for the recognition and celebration of Christ’s sacrificial offering of himself on Good Friday, and the triumph of his resurrection on Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday begins six and one-half weeks before Easter Sunday. Its purpose is to begin a period of spiritual renewal leading up to Good Friday and Easter. For many Catholics and Protestants it encourages accepting a special discipline during this period. It may mean giving up a bad habit that you may have taken on—or some of the foods or desserts that you might otherwise eat —or taking on a spiritual discipline of prayer and scripture reading. Many churches offer programs to encourage and further such practices including special studies and times of prayer.
As you know a counter reaction is that of Mardi Gras. The idea that you should live it up before the time of discipline begins! This is a bad idea. It frequently leads to excesses that have nothing to do with Christianity. I fear for some people it even implies that you can do naughty things leading up to Lent, thinking that in the following weeks you can find forgiveness. The Bible does not encourage us to follow such a pattern.
As a matter of fact, times of spiritual renewal are encouraged in the scriptures.
The apostle Paul to Timothy: “Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands;” (II Timothy 1:6)
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings to closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,” (Hebrews 12:1)
“For just as you once yielded your members to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now yield your members to righteousness for sanctification.” Romans 6:19)
“Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)
I was reminded this week of my first awareness of real spiritual renewal. I was in the sixth grade in Sand Springs, Oklahoma. In our neighborhood the father of one of the girls was a reporter for the Tulsa World and Tribune and published a local newspaper for our town. He was know for excessive drinking (in a dry state!) and disregard for Christian principles. Somehow, his daughter persuaded her dad to go to church with her. He not only attended, but came to the point of professing his faith in Christ. I was amazed when I realized later that he had become the teacher of the men’s Bible class! Over the years, I have had the privilege of witnessing that kind of transformation many times.
If Lent is a later invention by the church, it is surely in harmony with the sprit of new life and new living that the scriptures encourage. So bless your brothers and sisters who are in earnest about Lent. And consider the participation that is appropriate for you.
More about Foster… Foster H. Shannon, Brief Biographical Note Dr. Foster Shannon received his degree from the University of California, Berkeley in Political Science, and went on to obtain a Master of Divinity at Fuller Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary, with emphasis on church growth. The Interim Pastor of True Light Presbyterian Church in Alhambra, CA until recently, he is the author of seven books and a Sunday School curriculum. As the President of Green Leaf Press, a non-profit Christian publishing company, established in 1981, he publishes and markets Christian books with special emphasis on Bible Study, Church Growth, and Christian Evidences. The website is: www.gogreenleaf.com. He enjoys riding his bicycle and swimming weekly. He likes both classical and popular music. He roots for the CAL Bears and the Chicago Cubs.
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