Why this particular tradition is important in a non-traditional church

We look out our windows today in Hampton Roads and the ground is covered with snow. It’s a messy season complete with treacherous road conditions, chilled winds, and footprints litter our once pristine, snow covered lawns. Over the next few days as the snow melts away, we’ll find all the mud, trash, and wind-blown branches that were hidden under the pure white snow and glistening ice.

Our life is like that. We try to cover up our messes on Facebook and Instagram, only showing the tips of the iceberg, the most immaculate parts of our lives, unblemished by the screaming match we just had with our spouse, the meltdowns of our kids, the deadlines that loom at work, or the fact that there just isn’t enough time in the day.

Yesterday wasn’t just a random snow-covered day in the Tidewater though. It was Ash Wednesday. Across the world, millions of people ceremonially placed ashes over their heads, either sprinkled or marked on their foreheads as a visible cross. Ash Wednesday marks the first day of the season of Lent, a forty day period (minus Sundays) meant to mirror the 40 days Moses spent on Mt. Sinai, the 40 days of the Jewish Passover, the 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness. Most importantly, it’s meant to honor the divine narrative leading up to the cross. Lent is a way of going through something ourselves to honor the journey of Jesus these 40 days.

Too often we get caught up in the Easter eggs, candy, floral dresses, white shoes, and high energy crowds that seem to define Easter worship service, so much so that even the resurrection can seem to fall flat in comparison. Whereas, if we recognize Lent for what it is, may be we’ll move toward Easter differently, understanding that beneath the pristine snow that covers our lives is the dirtiness of it all. The unclean mess that shackles us to the world: the addictions we hide, the anxiety that chains us, the bitterness that won’t let us go.

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, but it’s not too late to start. May be for you Lent means fasting or intense prayer time. May be it means you start a new Bible reading plan like YouVersion offers. Pastor Michael is reading through Draw the Circle: The 40 Day Prayer Challenge. Whatever Lent is to you, let it shake you up. Let it unsettle you. Let the snow melt in your life. Let it expose the stuff that’s hidden. Let it be a time of change. Let Jesus set you free. Because Easter is coming, and He’s about to do more than we can imagine.