All are welcome to join us as we begin the traditional season of Lent with a worship service this Wednesday, February 13, at 7 PM. New Testament scholar Daryl Rahfeldt will bring the message.
There is no “one way” that we in the Evangelical Covenant observe Lent. As people join us from various backgrounds they bring traditions with them. Some are used to having ashes put on their forehead. Some are used to giving up certain kinds of meats on certain days of the week. Because we value freedom in these matters we try to create a worship culture that honors these various commitments; at the same time we do not impose them on anyone’s conscience.
Some Covenant congregations do aim to recover some of the liturgical practices of the historic church and refresh them for the present. In our congregation in Elgin we do not usually impose ashes on foreheads during our worship time. We emphasize the Word-centered message of the life and love of Jesus Christ who surrendered himself over to death in order to destroy death’s power and bring the promise of new life in the resurrection. During Lent the focus is on the message of surrender, and during Easter the focus is on the message of resurrection. Always the message is of new life in Christ.
The culture of the world tends to focus on encouraging self-indulgence in the final days before Lent, with Mardi Gras. No tradition of any faithful church can expressly encourage the excesses of alcohol abuse or other behaviors associated with “Fat Tuesday” –this is strictly the realm of pop culture. Then the appropriately guilty person can use the next few weeks to make it all up to God, right? In our hearts we know this is not how repentance and mercy work.
Lent need not be a season of remorse for falls off the wagon or other regrets that we think we can atone by swearing off hamburger and chocolate for a few weeks. Lent is really more about solemn reflection on the awesome love of God who reaches out to us while we are yet sinners in our weakness and need. In a way it is the other side of the coin of Advent/Christmas, where we rush from one party to another. Ash Wednesday begins for us a different kind of season: ’tis the season to slow down and reflect. Don’t make Lent to be about your efforts to atone for the sins of Mardi Gras; allow Lent to be a time that God invites you to Himself in whispers of love and forgiveness.