Dear Church Family,
Someone asked me, “Is Ash Wednesday man-made?” the short answer is, “yes.” But the short answer doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s more… “community over centuries made.” The early church made a church calendar as early as the 2nd century. The forty days of Lent are referenced in the Council of Nicea 325 A.D. Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes goes back to at least the eleventh century.
The Church followed the pattern God established in the Old Testament and the seven festivals He commanded Israel to observe each year. The festivals functioned to remind the people of God’s gracious and mighty acts of deliverance, provision, forgiveness, and rest.
The Church calendar, also known as the liturgical calendar, functions in the same way. We keep our eyes on the life of Jesus and see in his life, death, resurrection, ascension, and giving of the Holy Spirit God’s gracious and mighty acts of deliverance, provision, forgiveness and rest- all pouring out of His love for His people.
Lent is not prescribed in the Bible as a specific season to observe, but we can rest in the combined wisdom of the early church and the centuries of tradition. The themes of Lent are certainly biblical: repentance, faith, loving sacrifice, growing in grace and knowledge of Jesus, humility, love, joy, peace, rest.
Observing Lent so that you can say you do doesn’t do much for you either. Don’t be content with merely tradition, rather get to the heart of the tradition by keeping your eyes on Jesus, journeying with him in the Scriptures to the cross. “For our sake, he made him who knew no sin to be sin, in order that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.