Last evening we had our Ash Wednesday service for the Mount Airy Charge at St. Andrews UMC. We had 23 attending, which is great for a weekday night. Folks from all three churches were there, plus a visitor (sort of a visitor), my dad rode with me from Lynchburg.
I really dumped on Brian Daniels from Providence UMC and got him to read one of the scripture passages with no advance notice. It is the passage from Joel 2:1-2, 12-17. The passage has the prophet calling the people to repentance. When I read it I could hear Brian's voice speaking the part of the prophet. So, when I saw Brian come into the church, I couldn't resist. He did a great job, he sounded just like I had heard it in my head.
The message came from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21. In it Jesus tells his disciples to give to the needy, pray, and to fast. But the emphasis is on attitude not just the doing of the acts.
The ashes we used were from burning the palm leaves from last year's Palm Sunday. I had had a terrible time getting those year old, dried out leaves to burn. I went through an entire pack of matches and it never worked. I finally used one of those butane candle lighters and just kept the flame on the leaves until they were all burned up. I didn't need to really worry. It's amazing how far a little ash and some oil go when your dabbing it on someone's forehead. I had enough for a full sanctuary and an overflow crowd standing in the parking lot. They don't have an ash recipe with measurements of how much will serve how many.
Now we are in the season of Lent. I've tried to get folks in the congregations to seriously think about what they will give up for Lent. I hear people saying, "I'm giving up seafood, I'm allergic to it". I had thought about fasting for Lent, but I have people I work with who make my life miserable if they find out I'm not eating for Lent. So, I decided to try fasting two meals a day and only eat after sundown. I'm also going to drastically cut my television watching and do some serious reading. That actually may be harder for me than giving up food, I'm really hooked on watching the news channels.
I actually like the Lenten season. I like the personal preparation for Easter. Life can be so busy and when we give something up during Lent it should help us to slow down and focus. I'm wanting to get myself quieted so I can hear. As I used to tell the youth group, "If you want to hear from God, sometimes you have to shut your mouth". So, I think I'll follow those instructions. Have a blessed Lenten season.