Ashes and more

Ann Swanson

With a late Easter this year Ash Wednesday is also later than usual. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of the Lenten season of self-denial and preparation to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus in the Christian faith. It happens on March 6 this year.

Why is this season important? It gives Christians a chance to reflect on the importance of Jesus in their personal life.

I remember having an argument with one of our pastors when I was in confirmation class (the class you take when you join the church). He asked us which was more important, Easter or Christmas. I reasoned that without Christmas there would be no Easter because Jesus was born at Christmas. He told us he felt that Easter was the most important because, without the resurrection of Jesus, no one would be saved.

As I have grown in my faith and pondered that question, I must agree that I now think that Easter is most important. It was a given that Jesus was born, but it was only through his trials and death on the cross that the Christian faith gets its teeth if you will.

There is a song titled “I Know that my Redeemer Lives.” I was surprised to find that it is not in our hymnal, but I know the words. I figured out that the reason I know the words is because I learned them when I was young. They are in the old hymnal that I have formed the Lutheran church. I hope when Christians sing this song they really reflect on the words because that is what Easter is about.

The first verse of the song goes like this: “I know that my Redeemer lives! What comfort this sweet sentence gives. He lives, He lives, Who once was dead, He lives my ever-living Head.”

Lent is just over six weeks in length. Some people give up something they really like during Lent. That is hard to do. Other people add something to their routine as a way of preparation.

Whatever you choose to do personally is your decision. The church does not dictate that you must do anything. On Ash Wednesday ashes are offered in many churches. It is a way of marking yourself as someone who follows the cross.

If you are unfamiliar with the Lenten season, I invite you to find a Bible and read the whole Easter story. I know there are Bibles at the hospital because I have used them.

A group called the Gideons have placed Bibles in public places as well in hotel rooms. We recently had a representative of the Gideons speak at our church. They have a program where you can give memorial donations as well as donations in honor of someone. Our church has a selection of cards to use for this. You just take a card that says what you want to say, then fill in the form to donate for whatever purpose you choose. Every five dollars that you donate places a Bible.

The story of Jesus death and resurrection is in all of the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. My favorite account comes from Luke chapters 22, 23, and 24. It follows the time when Jesus gave his disciples communion (the breaking of bread and drinking of wine) through his crucifixion and resurrection. This is the basis of Christian theology. It is what sets Christians apart. The word Christian is derived from the word Christ which another word for Jesus.

When I was growing up, I remember going to church with my grandparents. My mother sang in the choir so I sat with them. I was young. I could not read. I always sang, but I sang the words I heard. Once I learned to read, I found out I was not singing what was written at all. What things sounded like were anything but what was written. Once I learned to read, I sang all of the words correctly.

I grew up in a church that did not offer communion to anyone who was not confirmed. The church I attend now is different. Even the youngest in the congregation and all visitors are allowed to take communion as long as they earnestly repent of their sins. I like that concept better than the one I grew up with. It welcomes all who are present. That is a good thing as far as I am concerned.

The first job I had allowed time to attend church each Wednesday during Lent. The store closed for an hour. On Good Friday, stores were closed from noon to three o’clock. You know what? No one lost any business either because everyone was closed. What a novel idea! Now stores do not even close on Sunday – the day of rest. Everyone these days is afraid if they do close, they will lose money. If no stores are open no one suffers.

There are many Lenten services around the area. There are even some that you can attend during your lunch hour if you work in town. Some services are held in the evening so that those who work can attend. The newspaper always lists the services that are available on their page with church services for the week. If you are interested look for a service at a time that you can attend.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.