Ash Wednesday Begins the Threshold of Lent


Ash Wednesday literally marks on our forehead the beginning of the spiritual threshold for Lent. As we step into Lent, we hear Jesus say: “And when you fast do not look dismal.” We are not to be sullen, downcast, or gloomy. Good advice for Lent. Of course, if we don’t look dismal then how are we supposed to look? Point being, it is not about our external appearance. It is about character. Hear again, “do not look dismal like the hypocrites.”

This is where we are vulnerable for Lent. Jesus knows this well. Hypocrites look dismal externally but they are anything but dismal internally. On the outside they appear one way but, on the inside, there is a whole different story.

Again, it is not about appearance. There is a “temptation” to approach Lent like we approach most challenges in life. We take up the challenge and compete. We want to win and succeed and be victorious. If Lent is supposed to test our character, then game-on. We accept the challenge of the next forty days as if this is time for a spiritual work out.  If we are going to have a good Lent then we will ace it. Good luck with that.

Here is where we are vulnerable. Lent is not up to me nor is it up to you. These 40 days, are set aside for God to work on us as a result of sin. Sin, for whatever reason has distanced us, or maybe even separated us, from our reliance upon God. Lent is a time of restoration, repair, and offers the gift of renewal. We begin with the Prayer book and the words of, “self-examination and repentance; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word” (BCP p. 265) so God may work within us.

 We join David as we express both our vulnerability and our need for God to help as we cry out, “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:11).

And don’t forget, Jesus says, “when we fast do it so that we may not be seen by others but in secret.” In other words, by stepping into this threshold we are aware of our vulnerability which is nobody’s business but ours. This is a time to get-up close and personal with God. There are no bells being sounded, nor trumpets blaring, and no marquees flashing, but only the quiet movement found deep within our soul. It is here, we begin to discover changes taking place that can only be God’s doing.  

Deep within our soul, Jesus speaks to us about “your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:18).  At first blush, the mere mention of a “reward” sounds manipulative or like we are motivated by punishment and reward. The truth is that Jesus uses this word of reward to remind us that with crossing a threshold there is vulnerability but there is also a breakthrough. The breakthrough comes with the promise of Easter.  Again, it is God’s work.

Robin Jennings

Robin Jennings

Robin T. Jennings is an ordained priest in the Episcopal Church, and an accomplished author, speaker and teacher who inspires his audiences with Biblical guidance and spiritual insights into everyday life. Whether he has the opportunity to speak to churches, businesses or organizations, Robin’s lifetime of work in spiritual transformation and renewal connects individuals with timely topics such as the importance of community, hope, identity and the search for meaning which are inevitably woven into his message.

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