Ash Wednesday marks the start of the season that leads up to the holiest day of the year for Christians – Easter Sunday.
“Ash Wednesday is the deep breath we take and exhale as we begin the Lenten journey,” said Randy Sherron, pastor of Ridge Road Baptist Church in Raleigh.
“Symbolically, Christians enter the wilderness in Lent to face their own temptations and fears,” Sherron said. “We realize how anxious life would be without the life of Christ as our example.”
Lent lasts roughly 40 days and begins this year on Feb. 18.
Sherron said Sundays are not included in the Lenten count because Sunday is the day of the resurrection. The time span of 40 days reflects the 40 days the Bible says Jesus spent in the wilderness being tempted by Satan.
Ridge Road Baptist Church follows a tradition shared by many congregations of offering a quiet and solemn service on Ash Wednesday.
“The meditative nature of the Ash Wednesday service helps us to slow down from the fast pace of life and get us in a rhythm where we’re more likely to appreciate and be grateful for the life, death and resurrection of Jesus,” Sherron said.
And many worshipers leave Ash Wednesday services with a smudge of ash on their foreheads in the shape of a cross.
“In the Scriptures ashes are often used as signs of grief, penitence or remorse,” Sherron said. “Christians take the mark of the ashes with the reminder by the minister, ‘Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.’ ”
Even those who don’t take any particular note of Lent probably know someone who has opted to give up indulgent desserts or favorite beverages during the 40 days.
“The heart of Christianity is sacrifice, especially the sacrifice that Jesus made at the end of the Holy Week,” Sherron said. “Many Christians choose to give up something as a tangible reminder of this. It is also a way of de-cluttering our sometimes-muddled life. This isn’t a message we usually get from society. Often we’re encouraged to gain as much as possible and not give up anything. So once more the message of Lent brings us back to the core of who we are as disciples of Jesus.”
By the time Easter arrives, the faithful may have changed their minds about the actual importance of what they denied themselves.
“Often at the end of Lent we see that what we gave up really isn’t needed or desired as much as we thought and we have one less thing to worry about,” Sherron said.
Hearts in Unity
Unity Church of Raleigh will host its second annual Hearts in Unity Fundraiser Dinner and Music Night Out from 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21.
This is a family-friendly event that includes a lasagna dinner, a disc jockey, karaoke and a raffle. Little ones will be treated to pizza, games and a movie.
Proceeds from the dinner go to Unity’s building fund.
The event will take place at Unity Church’s meeting place, 11101 Creedmoor Road at Amran Temple Drive in Raleigh.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children and $2.50 for their siblings. A table for eight costs $100. Tickets can be purchased on the church’s website at unitychurchofraleigh.org.
Carla Turchetti compiles Faith in Focus each week. Email her with details of upcoming events at email@example.com.