Wednesday, March 01, 2006

ASH WEDNESDAY, LENT AND OTHER QUESTIONABLE ACTS


"You hate nothing that You have made, and You forgive the sins
of all who are truly pentitent: Create in us new hearts that we,
worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wickedness,
may obtain of You, God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness..."
- Collect for Ash Wednesday from The Book of Common Prayer


I participated in my first Ash Wednesday worship gathering with my new youth group and new church tonight. It was a really good service. No matter how the music, environment is, there is something very moving about going forward to receive the sign of the cross with ashes on your forehead as you hear the pastor say, "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return".

The mood began as somewhat festive, which I thought was a bit odd for an ash wed. service but by the time we all went forward to receive the ashes and then return to our seats there was a spirit in the congregation that we had moved into that sublime moment in time where we join Jesus in the desert.

One of the most interesting things that has intrigued me this year is a conversation I had with a couple of the girls in my youth group. They both attend one of the local private Christian schools. Very few of the students happen to be Methodist at the school and from what I hear there is a large contingency of the student body that is Baptist. These two girls were laughing saying, "Hey Jonathon, apparently we are now known as being Catholic cause we've been talking about what we're giving up for Lent." They also shared that some students had no idea what Lent is, or that the idea of sacrificing/fasting as a spiritual discipline for 40 (some odd) days is silly.

I know that for one of these girls this was her first Ash Wed. Service that she has been a part of. I am proud of them for practicing their "distinct way of life" even in the midst of a Christian school. For those who see the re-enactment and re-membering the stories of our faith as strange, silly or odd- well let me just say there has to be something to it since the Church has been "practicing" and "observing" the season of Lent at least since the year 325 AD (which was the year of the Council of Nicea).

So I have to ask the question- what's wrong with being a little catholic (little "c")? What's wrong with remembering the stories that shape who we are and remind us to live like Christ? What's wrong with participating in the rituals and holidays that have sustained and carried the tradition of our faith for two thousand years? I find it a little embarrassing that we have failed to pass the stories and traditions to each generation in the church and for some Christian traditions- even see "our" traditions as odd, foreign, and even not really Christian. That's a TRAGEDY!!!

So to my youth who may sometimes feel like the minority, or feel like we're oddballs- well- John Wesley is our founder.... WE ARE ODDBALLS!!! Embrace it, OWN IT, and GOOD FOR YOU for getting excited and living out your faith creatively.

(this is a personal shout out- "S.- only 46 more days until you can eat chick-fil-a, KFC, and lunchroom chicken fingers!! YOU GO!!" and make sure you take a good multivitamin that has protein and vitamin b-3)

Shalom,
Jonathon

11 comments:

Thunder Jones said...

The Methodist Book of Worship doesn't really have a litany of Penitence.

My non-denom friends think that the idea of Ash Wednesday or even the use of Tradition as a source of theological reflection is strange, if not a little idolatrous. What modern people we can be when we think we have no need of our story and tradition as a means of understanding the Scriptures and the faith. If only the modern consciousness understood how new it was, then it would be more willing to understand the necessity of Tradition.

Keep preaching the good news and we'll keep looking for a City whose builder and maker is God.

Lane said...

Thanks for a great reminder of what it means to be a part of this big story in the season of lent.

gavin richardson said...

the isrealites always forgot, so God was always reminding them of where they came from.. oh, some denoms seem to forget that there is a old testament.. so i guess they'd never know about all that.

j2 said...

I am new to the little "c" traditions carried on by Methodist, too. I am enjoying it as both novel and expanding for me personally. I grew up in the Church of Christ and certainly understand the theological reason why such traditions were dispensed with. In a way I am glad that I have the freedom from the traditions as sacred obligations so that I am free to experience them for what they are - tools.

I have never celebrated Lent "properly" before, but I did give up meat for an entire Lent period a few years ago after hearing about the idea. It was a challenge, but one that I found worthwhile. My connection to God and myself, that relationship, became more apparent through the self-denial. It is a very good way to begin a period of introspection.

Eric Lee said...

It's good to see others embracing our own peculiarity! :)

Peace,

Eric

Craig Moore said...

Jonathon
I have been practicing these rituals and telling the stories for years, and I am not even an Emergent. You are right, many denominations completely avoid the ancient practices of the church to their detriment. The denomination that I came out of had no interest or knowledge of the practices of the ancient church. I have learned much from the Episcopal and Roman Catholic Churches and find it so meaningful and inspiring.

gavin richardson said...

oh, and don't sloaner & carlyer look so cute with ashes smeared all over them, who did that? you?

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Wayne Bowerman said...

I grew up in a nondenom church – it could often be anti-tradition, anti-intellectual, and a bit antinomian – that sadly goes with the territory of a lot of really mainstream evangelicalism (not just Baptist or nondenom – but they seem to be the biggest). That is so cool for your youth to be a part of such a service. I actually was a youth director myself for three years at a Methodist church around here. These days its just school for me. I miss it though.

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