[Today’s guest post is written by one of my dearest friends and biggest theological influences, Austin Ricketts (pictured above). I’m trying to talk him into letting me post more of his stuff here. We’ll see. I hope you enjoy what he has on tap for us today.]
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD,
“Return to Me with all your heart,
And with fasting, weeping and mourning;
And rend your heart and not your garments.”
Now return to the LORD your God,
For He is gracious and compassionate,
Slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness
And relenting of evil.
For many (probably most) Protestants in America, Ash Wednesday is just a silly Catholic ritual. I would rather not start a debate about the historical fact that, without the silly Catholic ritual of the Eucharist or the silly Catholic ritual of Baptism, Protestants would not have the Bible that they have, nor the orthodox doctrines of the Trinity and Christ.
[For those in Philadelphia: the liberti church that meets in the Fishtown neighborhood is having an Ash Wednesday service tonight at 7:30. For those in Center City, I will be going to a 6pm service at the Church of the Holy Trinity right on Rittenhouse park. I hope to see you there.]
It’s Ash Wednesday!
(Here’s the prayer for this Holy Day that millions of Christians around the world are praying today–feel free to join them.)
Lent really is my favorite time of year. And Ash Wednesday is particularly special. We spend these weeks meditating on those ways in which we need God the most, and he meets us in it. As we lead up to the celebration of God dying and rising again, we meditate upon those reasons why he needed to come and do it in the first place–namely, that this world is not what it will be, and God took it in his hands to accomplish what was needed to get us there.
I was just reading the article I wrote last year when I gave up Facebook for Lent. So much has changed. I remember that last year I saw fasting during Lent as some Catholic thing that might be a good idea to do. Also, my reason for giving up Facebook was to help me in the areas of procrastination and discipline.
On the discipline front, it’s funny to have watched how things have played out since then; even more so in light of this year’s Lent. As I finished up that second semester of seminary, my procrastination and discipline issues only worsened.As I dropped out and spent the summer woefully unemployed and poor, my nights got later, I became completely unproductive on nearly every front, and my soul seemed to shrivel because of my lack of discipline and consistent pursuit of God.
In the Fall I moved to a new church community and slowly started to become revived. For the first time I began to understand Calvin’s assertion that theology is only truly theology when it’s lived out. I can no longer divorce orthodoxy from obedience. As time went on, I got swept up in the various means of grace that God has given his church (to be talked of more later), and I was drawn to Him. In the midst of my “dry season” (as we charismatics call them) I feebly reached for a few resources to keep the dwindling flame alive. I eventually got my hands on a sweet copy of the Book of Common Prayer. As of about a month ago, after getting some help, I actually began getting up at a consistent early time and doing some morning devotions. I’ve even been doing some evening devotions as well. I’ve been more consistent in my thinking, writing, and planning. It’s been amazing. I feel my soul revived. After reading that Lent post from last year, I can’t help but wonder if this newfound discipline and productivity are the fruits of the grace obtained in last year’s Lent season.