Today is Ash Wednesday, a day observed throughout Christendom as the beginning of a season that will bring us, in six weeks, to the betrayal, arrest and crucifixion of Jesus. We call the season Lent. It is the time of penitence and self-restraint that follows Fat Tuesday (Mardi Gras), the day when some Christians enjoy a wild last pig out before they must give up their favorite foods, habits and sins.
The so-called “high” churches—Catholics of various sorts and Episcopalians—have observed Ash Wednesday almost since the Year One. My background is “low” church, but in my lifetime Lent has become more intentionally observed in Presbyterian and other Protestant churches, to the benefit, we hope, of our faith and discipleship.
So this evening Betty and I will join a goodly number of our fellow believers in walking down the aisle of the Spanish Fort Presbyterian Church to have the sign of the cross traced on our foreheads with ashes as the mark of our sorrow for sin. Now that I sit in the back pew it’s a longer walk than it used to be, but that will give me more time to remember that, yes, even though I was respectably sober on Fat Tuesday, I too am a sinner.
~ Bert Johnston, author of Parson Campbell's Breakthrough
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