The Pastor’s Page – February

Ash Wednesday falls on February 14th this year—yes, that means if you are going to give up chocolates or desserts for Lent you may want to celebrate Valentine’s Day on Fat Tuesday—the English translation of Mardi Gras. Ash Wednesday inaugurates our Lenten journey—a tradition we still hold onto at St. John’s Evangelical Church.

There are many Protestant churches who have stopped having Ash Wednesday services, so this may be a good time to invite a Christian friend to come and worship here
for that evening, and we have extended an invitation to the
Payne Chapel to join us in worship that evening also.

But it would also be a good time to invite your non- Christian friends too for this is a night when we journey through the Gospel in that time of worship. This is also a service where we ask—if you are able—all worshipers to come forward to the Cross and the altar and stand before God again and again and again. Each time has a different meaning to it.

First, we come to receive the ashes for which the day is named. We remember that we are dust and to dust we shall return. We recall our sin—individually and collectively—brought the punishment of death into the world.

We weep and we mourn for the paradise we have lost through sin, and the distance it has created between us and our Holy God.

Thankfully, that is just the beginning of the service as God does not leave us forgotten or forsaken. For then, we hear echoes of Proverbs 16:6 when we remember that “by steadfast love and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for…” This is, of course, the steadfast love and faithfulness our heavenly Father has for us. This love moved Him to give His only begotten Son in our place on the tree of condemnation. And that love we commemorate by receiving the sacrament of Holy Communion.

As Hebrews 10:22-23 states: “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.”

What a glorious gift we have received from God’s loving hand! And yet, like a late-night infomercial, there’s still more in store for us, and so we follow the prescription that Christ gave to us for our period of Lenten fasting: “But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,” Matthew 6:17.

Our final trip to the altar on Ash Wednesday reminds us that God uses Lent to prepare us for greater impact in the world. Though we have sinned, He has overcome that sin and its penalty [death] through the blood of Christ shed on Calvary and His resurrection
from the dead. Through Christ, we are freed from all our chains, and by the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live in Christ-like freedom for the glory of God.

The Motto of the Moravian Brotherhood declares, “Our Lamb has conquered, let us
follow Him.” Our Lamb has conquered all that would ensnare us, and now in freedom let us follow Him. Also, let us allow Lent to prepare us that we might follow Him fully with all that
we are for that is Lent’s purpose in our journey of faith.

In Christ’s powerful name,
Pastor Randall