Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Ash Wednesday and the Christian Church

For Lutherans, Catholics, Episcopalians and other churches that still employ the historic liturgy, Ash Wednesday has the been the traditional beginning of the season of Lent. Although inconsistent with it's name, some Lutheran churches omit the imposition of ashes on this day (due in part to it's supposed Catholic overtones). Nevertheless, they retain the day and the season.

I was under the impression that other Evangelical churches, especially the Baptist variety, did not observe this day or the Lenten season, again because of the supposed Catholic association. But before I declared this impression to be fact, I did a search on Google with "Ash Wednesday" and "Baptist." Surprisingly there are many Baptist churches that do have an Ash Wednesday service. Some even observe Lent. One church actually was going to offer the imposition of ashes!

Now how can that be? After jettisoning the liturgy and other historic trappings of the church catholic, why would they retain, or as I suspect, resurrect this ancient custom? Well, this is only conjecture, but my suspicion is that there is much that is very Christian and biblical about this day and the season of Lent, and even the Baptists couldn't ignore this. Who could be against a season of repentance and contemplation on the Passion of Our Lord?

Now I don't expect that Ash Wednesday is necessarily enjoying a widespread renaissance within the the Christian church as a whole. There are many Bible and Community churches, not to mention the Pentecostals, who will probably ignore the day. Many of these churches also seem to avoid Good Friday and offer Easter cantatas around that time just when the rest of us are deep into the Passion. Still, it's interesting that given enough time how people eventually discover that matters they had avoided because of a bias against anything Catholic may in fact be very biblical and meaningful.

So, to all who are gathering this night to begin the fast of Lent: The Lord be with you!

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