“A Time of Turning”
There is a problem even in the church today in that many are turning away from the Gospel, instead believing in whatever the majority say is true rather than the teachings of the Gospel. Unfortunately, this trend is nothing new. Paul speaks of this turning away in Galatians 1:6-7, saying, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another gospel, but there are some who are confusing you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ.” Paul later warns in his second letter to Timothy about a coming time when people will only listen to what they want to hear, saying, “For the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths” (2 Timothy 3:3-4). But Paul also reminds us that God has provided us with the truth we need to hear in the scriptures, saying, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
The Lenten Season is a time for turning back to God, and it begins in February with Ash Wednesday. The aim of our Lenten journey is the renewal of our faith. In this season, the believer suffers and dies with the Lord, so that they might also rise to newness of life with the Lord. The passion and death of Christ are not ends for the believer but means; you cannot be raised from death without first dying to sin. Lent is a period for repentance, turning from our sinful ways back to God’s Way.
This year, we are planning to begin Lent with both a “Fat Tuesday” pancake supper on February 25 and an Ash Wednesday service on February 26. The day before Ash Wednesday was once known as Shrove Tuesday, an Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to cleanse.” The faithful would seek cleansing of their sins through confession. The term “Fat Tuesday” evolved from the custom of collecting all the fat, that was forbidden during Lent, and using it to make doughnuts (German custom), or pancakes (English custom), and eating them before Lent began. The term “Ash Wednesday” results from ashes being the ancient symbol of repentance and grief. Priests developed the custom of burning the leaves of the previous Palm Sunday fronds, which they would sprinkle on the congregation, as they solemnly pronounced the words: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.” The ashes were later imposed on the forehead. The imposition of ashes is not intended as disfigurement, which was forbidden when fasting by Jesus (Matthew 6:16), but as an outward and visible sign of our internal and sincere desire to turn our hearts to God.
Lent occurs at a time when the seasons are turning from winter to spring. The heart of our Lenten experience will revolve around our turning through repentance, reconciliation and renewal. It is my prayer that we will turn back to our Creator (re-creation), turn back to His Son (redemption), and turn back to our brothers and sisters in Christ (reconciliation). Together we will become better disciples as we are transformed from sinners into saints by the power of the Holy Spirit. Please find time every day to read your Bibles, listening to what the Holy Spirit will reveal to you. The Apostle Peter said, “First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Please also make an effort to attend worship, and pray and devote yourself to being a better Christian as we turn back to Jesus every day for forgiveness, grace, strength, and guidance.
Your fellow servant in Christ,