This year on Feb 18, Pleasant Valley Community Church will be observing Ash Wednesday for the third year in a row. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of Lent, which is a 40-day season leading up to Easter Sunday. Lent is a time set aside for fasting and longing dating back to the 4th century, meant to parallel each of the forty days when Christ fasted in the wilderness leading up to his temptation (Mark 4:2).
So to kick off Lent we will be gathering together on a Wednesday night to read God’s word, sing songs of lament, confess our sins, mark our foreheads with ashes (optional), and talk about death.
I’m sure as you’re reading this you’re already thinking, “that sounds like my kind of party” (sarcasm intended).
Let’s be honest, we don’t like thinking about death. In our culture we go to great lengths to avoid anything that reminds us of it. How many of us feel unsettled in hospitals and never attend funerals? The world around us is furiously fighting to cover our eyes every time the concept of mortality arises, and we gleefully oblige. So many of us live our lives in disorder, falling off of life’s balance beam either in the direction of blissful ignorance or morbid fear. When it comes to dealing with death, we need a healthy dose of reality.
At Pleasant Valley we see Ash Wednesday as a kind of corrective lens for our perpetual nearsightedness. It’s an event that forces us to think about eternity. While there is certainly nothing in God’s Word that requires us to put ashes on our foreheads or to participate in Lent, there is a clear Biblical mandate and apparent spiritual need for all of us to remind and prepare ourselves for death in some way.
By observing Ash Wednesday we are putting a reminder of God’s judgment for sin in front of one another. We are remembering his declaration upon all of Adam and Eve’s descendants, “From dust you came, and to dust you shall return”. When we gather for Ash Wednesday we are remembering that no one escapes life alive.
Why take time to look death in the face? Why in this day of happy churches and feel-good music should we be such Debbie Downers? Why would a young, growing, protestant church risk taking part in something that feels so “Catholic” (for lack of better words)?
- Ash Wednesday is no more “Catholic” than Christmas or Easter- We as modern churches have leaned in heavily on the historical church calendar events that are more celebratory and commercialized, but typically neglect the days set aside to give us balance.
- Because life can be scary– We need to hear God’s voice speak to us in the midst of our greatest fears. We need to provide space for the Spirit of God to comfort us when we are living life afraid. And just as importantly, we need to create spaces in our calendar to allow the Spirit to shake us awake when we’re numb and naïve to a coming judgment.
- Because life can be dark– So many of us need to know it’s ok to mourn and long for better days. We need an outlet to cry out to God in need. We need the church to show us how to honor God when life is hard.
- Because Easter is coming– We observe Ash Wednesday because I believe we cannot fully appreciate Jesus’ glorious resurrection without seeing it against the backdrop of the terrible, lost, helpless state in which he found us. Imagine how amazing our Easter celebrations would be if all God’s people took 40 days to pray, fast, and remember our needy brokenness!
- Because we forget- Taking time to remember our need for a savior helps us to empathize with the hopelessness of our lost world. People all around us are living their lives without the victory and comfort we have found in Christ. Ash Wednesday is an alarm in our annual calendar that wakes up a sleepy church to mission.
We as Christians are the last people on earth who should be afraid of thinking about death, because God himself has taken on death head to head and risen victoriously.
Come join us!
- Wednesday, February 18th
- Service will last 60 minutes
- Childcare provided