On Wednesday February 17 at 7pm ET, several Hope Church communities are gathering together, virtually, to celebrate Ash Wednesday.
To be honest, “celebrate” seems like too jovial of a word to describe what churches around the globe gather to do on Ash Wednesday, though.
Ash Wednesday is, historically, recognized as the start of the Lenten season. Rose Marie Berger, an editor at Sojourners magazine, once wrote, “Lent is a time for soul-searching and metanoia—literally, turning again toward God—and for reviewing our life. When Jesus went into the desert for 40 days (Matthew 4:1-11), he was re-enacting the trauma of his people’s slavery in Egypt and their release from captivity. He wants to find out where his people went wrong. Why didn’t they achieve the full liberation God intended for them?
In that great desert silence, Jesus allows himself to be ‘revictimized’ in order to remember, assimilate, integrate, and heal the trauma his people have suffered in the past. In this way, he begins to understand what is needed for them to be born again in freedom and truth—and what his particular role will be in that liberation.”
If what Berger writes is true, then Ash Wednesday serves as the annual genesis for followers of Christ to consider their roles in the liberation of both themselves as well as their neighbors. Because of this, and as an acknowledgment of what Christ endured in the desert, Lent is marked by 40 days of fasting and preparation for Easter, one of the holiest days for the global Christian church.
Often, though, Ash Wednesday kicks off 40 days of not watching television, fasting from social media, or giving up sugar. While these are not insignificant experiences for individuals, they sometimes feel more like resolutions for the new year and not attempts to prepare for the liberating power of Christ’s resurrection.
Striving to reorient our lives toward Easter, when Hope Church comes together on the evening of February 17, we will spend our time focusing on lamenting and repenting, all with the intent of committing ourselves to living lives of justice and grace, shaped around the justice and grace of Jesus Christ that we see in the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
Will you join us?