BOUNTIFUL – At Lent, the focus is often on giving up something С chocolate, soda pop, texting – or working more on disciplines, such as vowing to spend more time in prayer.
But the Rev. Jen Cook, interim associate pastor at Grace Lutheran Church, has found “this giving something up for Lent turns out to be a lot like New Year’s resolutions,” something that often doesn’t work out, she said.
“Maybe we have the wrong perspective on Lent,” Cook said. “We focus on what we are giving up, rather than what God is giving us,” she said.
Lent, the 40-day Christian season of preparation for Easter, begins with Ash Wednesday on March 5 this year.
The 40 days includes Easter, but not Sundays, that are excluded because it’s the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is looked on as a time of rejoicing even through Lent.
Cook will be leading an Ash Wednesday service at Grace Lutheran Church, 835 N. Main, Bountiful, at 7 p.m. Evening services will be held each Wednesday during Lent and will include a soup supper.
Cook views Ash Wednesday as a solemn time leading into the season of Lent
“Lent is a time of slowing down, coming aside and letting the Holy Spirit deal with the junk in our lives,” Cook said. “If we let him, God will do some weeding and pruning in our hearts resulting in a deeper, richer relationship with Him in the end,” she said. That can result in “a beautiful garden full of life, with our lives full of the fruit of the spirit.”
Ash Wednesday is characterized by a worship service in which the minister imposes palm ashes in the form of a cross, while reciting the phrase, “from dust were you made, and dust you shall be.”
The ashes were used as early as the fourth century. Those accused of serious sin, whether of humble or noble birth stood barefoot before the cathedral with bowed heads.
The bishop would pass among the people, assigning acts of penance. The sinners would then enter the church and before the altar, recite seven penitential psalms.
Through the years, it evolved, until even the devout took part.
For those following the liturgical year, Ash Wednesday is preceded by a time of celebration in which Christians would overindulge before having to “give up” something for Lent.
They end on “Fat Tuesday” or the “Mardi-Gras,” with great feasting. Many churches still hold pancake suppers or carnivals that night.
During the Reformation, many Protestant churches discontinued the practice of imposing ashes on the faithful and many today don’t observe Lent at all.
Cook was raised in a faith that didn’t observe Lent and did not use the church calendar.
“I find it refreshing to have different ‘seasons’ of the year to anticipate and participate in,” she said.
“Life is made up so much of ordinary time and to have seasons of Advent and Lent that lead up to Christmas and Easter make them so much more special to me,” Cook said.
Reflecting on Lent, Cook said, “Lent begins with ashes but always ends in resurrection life and the joy of Easter.”
She advised, “Take advantage of the season and be open to letting the Holy Spirit deal with you. You can’t lose with that.”