Lent Stretches The Attitudes Of Contemporary Christians
I told Ed that I was at the dentist recently to deal with cavities that had materialized like weeds attacking my teeth. “You must have been lazy about brushing your teeth, as seven cavities sound like you only brushed your teeth on Sundays,” Ed observed.
I confessed that I avoided regular dental appointments the last couple of years. I used the threat of covid to keep well away from my dentist. My dentist is a nice guy, but I try to avoid him if I can.
Ed said that is how he feels about his wife’s pastor. He is an okay fellow, but Ed avoids him as much as possible. Since his wife Ruby occasionally goes to church, there is no need for Ed to go too. My old neighbor informed me that he’s in a good place without church services or clergy disturbing his peace. He feels satisfied that he’s not bad enough for hell, and that is enough for now.
One writer has commented that the church season of Lent is in trouble because it doesn’t reflect the values and attitudes of today’s Christians. Lent is a penitential period beginning 40 days before Easter, excluding Sundays. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday with the tradition of being marked by a cross of ashes on one’s forehead.
Ashes marked on our forehead in a cross remind us that we will die. We are dust, and to dust, we will return. (Gen. 3:19) Jesus spent 40 days in the wilderness fasting with prayer and overcoming the devil’s temptations. Jesus did this for us, who, as humans, do not overcome all temptations. Not only was Jesus able to conquer temptation and sin, but He died for the forgiveness of our sins and arose in victory over death. Now death leads to eternal life with Jesus for those who trust him.
There isn’t a great eagerness for people to admit with sorrow that they have sinned and that they are sinners before God, others, and themselves. Most agree with the words of the rock song ‘Human,’ “Maybe I’m foolish, maybe I’m blind, but I’m only human after all, don’t put your blame on me.” We don’t want to accept the truth that we are to blame for the sins we commit.
Jesus says that what we do as believers together is not about showing off before each other. When we worship, give to the needy, pray, or fast, they are to be done simply and sincerely for God’s recognition without glorifying ourselves. Ashes on the forehead can be meaningless before God if there is no desire in our heart to return to God in confession, prayer, and newness of attitude towards God’s will and away from our own will.
Psalm 51: 1-12 is often used on Ash Wednesday because King David fell in temptation and sin and was unaware of his guilt before God and all people. Nathan, the prophet, confronted David and David became aware of how sinful he had been. (2 Samuel 12:1-23)
Lent invites us to pray: O God, blot out my iniquity and create in me a pure heart. Renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not from your presence and restore to me your salvation’s joy. (Psalm 51: 9-10)