Today is an important day in the Christian liturgical calendar, Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday is the official start of Lent, which is 40 days (not counting Sundays) before Resurrection Sunday, better known as Easter.
Lent is a time of preparation, a time of introspection, a time of repentance. One of the classic passages to get a congregation into Lent is Psalm 51, a psalm of David repenting from his misdeeds with Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite, whom he had killed.
One of the hallmarks of my sort of Christianity, known as Reformed, is that the better we understand ourselves, the better we understand God. And what that means is that the more I understand the depths of my sinfulness, my misdeeds, the more I understand who God is.
In my fallen nature, I understand the distance the all-mighty and holy God must come to reach even me. So when I understand who I am, my gratitude for who God is and what God is about increases. This should be a part of every Christian’s Lenten journey toward Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday.
Part of what makes this thought hard in this affluent area is that my wealth and comfort lead me to believe that I am OK just the way I am. I am not suffering, therefore I don’t need God as much as someone who is suffering. Of course, that is not a correct thought, but it is a common one.
Many people think they do not have the need for God because things in their lives are pretty good. It is only when some people are faced with a need beyond their capacity to meet that they understand their need for God.
During Lent, many people abstain from something – chocolate, bread, criticizing specific people or shopping – something that makes us realize we have needs, and that there are times when we are powerless to meet all the needs we will ever have. When that happens, we find ourselves falling backward into the arms of God, who was waiting for us all along.
Let me encourage you to participate in Lent this year, and if you want the ashes, come over to our church and I’d be happy to anoint you. Resurrection Sunday is best celebrated by going through the low of Lent to reach the high of Easter. The journey matters.
The Rev. David Moore is pastor of Union Presbyterian Church of Los Altos, 858 University Ave. For more information, call 948-4361 or visit unionpc.org.