Today is Ash Wednesday, the traditional start of the Lenten season in the Western Church. Though Lent is–as many of my students here at Northwest might tell me–a non-biblical tradition, it is a powerful one that speaks to the depth of our humanity and the heart of the Christian faith.
Lent often begins on this day with a church service and the “impositions of ashes” which reminds us that it is dust from which we come and dust to which we will return. A fitting start to the Lenten season, in which preparation for the Cross (and the Resurrection) turn us inward as we reflect on the life and death of Christ and our sinful frailty. I’ve observed Lent for over a decade now, and commend it to you regardless of your denominational background.
It is tradition to penitentially “give something up” during this season to remind us our of limits and Christ’s sufferings. Some abstain from certain kinds of food. Others have given up Facebook between now and Easter. Still others have decided to “take on” something new: a spiritual discipline, acts of service, study of a particular book of the Bible, or more regular prayer. I encourage you to consider making the choice to do something similar this Lent!
One of the things I will be doing this year is reading through Karl Barth’s Epistle to the Romans. The book is, in short, Barth’s response to the positive yet ultimately empty theologies of his day in favor of a new and more realistic approach focused on the person of Christ. I know that historically it is one of the most important theological works of the 20th century, but I’ve never read it. I look forward to changing that fact over the next few weeks and plan on sharing some of what I’ve learned on this blog.