Ash Wednesday and Preparing for Lent

By | February 12, 2015

Ash Wednesday Solemn Assembly | February 18 @ 7am | 5828 Forward Ave.
As Christians, we believe that true joy and transformation is preceded by repentance. So before celebrating the joy of Jesus’ resurrection and the transformation that is ours in his death and resurrection at Easter, we first prepare with a season of penitence and fasting called Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday. As a community, we’ll begin Ash Wednesday, and the season of Lent, with a “solemn assembly” early in the morning. The service will include time to commit personally to Lenten disciplines God is calling you to take on, and also the imposition of Ashes. Throughout Scripture, the people of God lay in and cover themselves in ashes as a visible and public sign of repentance. We’ll mark our foreheads in ashes with the sign of the cross, a visible sign of our repentance to those who see us during the day.

Preparing for Lent | February 18 – April 4
As mentioned above, Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. This season of 40 days is one rich with meaning and tradition that can serve as an aid to our discipleship. Here are just a couple pieces of the history and traditions connected to Lent: – The season of Lent initially developed around the practice of preparing new Christians to be baptized on Easter Sunday. Lent was a 40 day season of intense discipleship and instruction in Christian doctrine. This theme still comes through in the Scriptures we read in worship during Lent. Most of them are the Scriptures that were used by the early Church in discipling new believers. They’re also filled with imagery of God’s covenant love toward us. Lent then, is a season for focused appreciation of our baptism. – Lent also developed as a way of Christians enacting Jesus’ forty days of fasting in the desert. This story is always the gospel reading on the first Sunday of Lent. It’s for this reason that fasting is one of the primary Lenten disciplines. Many Christians give up meat, dairy and alcohol for all of Lent, and even fast completely for all or a portion of Wednesdays (the day of the week when Judas agreed to betray Jesus) and Fridays (the day of the week of Jesus’ crucifixion). Many others practice less strict variations of this, or give up other things like forms of entertainment and other luxuries. The practice of fasting is often coupled with the practices of additional prayer and almsgiving, so that the time and money we save from not eating is offered to God and neighbor.┬áLent, then, is a season for intensified identification with Christ through concrete practices. The practice of keeping Lent has become a valuable discipline for many in Upper Room, and we hope you’ll join us on this 40 day journey through whatever practices God leads you to. If you’d like help in determining what Lenten disciplines might be best for you, feel free to email Chris and Mike