UNION — The cross drawn on the foreheads of each of the several dozen worshippers at Grace United Methodist Church Wednesday afternoon was the most visible sign of Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, the six weeks before Easter Sunday. It derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the heads of Christians participating in the ceremony. The ashes are placed during the “Imposition of the Ashes” portion of the ceremony when ashes are placed on the heads of worshippers, either by sprinkling them on the top of the head or, as is more common in English-speaking countries, used to draw a cross on their foreheads.
The Imposition of the Ashes is accompanied by the minister placing the ashes on the worshippers’ heads saying “Remember that you are dust and to the dust you shall return.”
On Wednesday, a large group of worshippers representing many of the Christian denominations gathered at Grade United Methodist Church for an Ash Wednesday “Service of Repentance” celebrating the beginning of Lent. The service was the first of seven Community Lenten Services that will be held through March 23 at Grace United Methodist Church which, as it has in years past, is hosting the services.
Each service will be led and a Lenten message delivered by a different minister from a different church. On Ash Wednesday, the Rev. David Bauknight, pastor of Grade United Methodist Church, led a large group of worshippers in the service which began with the Prelude, an instrumental performance of “O Divine Redeemer” by Grace UMC pianist Richard Cobb.
During the course of the service, the assembled worshippers sang the hymns “Have Thine Own Way, Lord” and “What Wondrous Love Is This!” to the accompaniment of Thomas Bishop, organist at Grace UMC and St. Augustine Catholic Church. Bishop would also perform instrumental version of “The Way of the Cross” during the Postlude. There was also a special musical performance of “Written In Red” by Bob and Fran Love of Grace UMC accompanied by Cobb.
Following the Prelude, Bauknight led the worshippers in the Greeting:
Bauknight: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”
Congregation: “And also with you.”
Bauknight: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.”
Congregation: “Bless the Lord, O my soul and forget not all God’s benefits.”
Bauknight: “Who forgives all your sins and heals all your infirmities.”
Congregation: “Who redeems all your sins and heals all your infirmities.”
Later on during the ceremony, Bauknight would lead the congregation in the Responsive Reading of Psalm 119:1-8 and the Act of Repentance from Psalm 51:1-17.
During the Meditation portion of the ceremony Bauknight spoke about the meaning of Ash Wednesday and Lent, preaching from Second Chronicles, Chapter 30 which tells the story of the celebration of the Passover at Jerusalem during the time of ancient Israel and Judah. Bauknight suggested that, in reading the passage, Union should be substituted for Israel to better understand the relevance of its message on the importance and meaning of truly worshipping God.
Traditionally, Lent lasts for 40 days, the number of day Jesus, following His baptism by John The Baptist, spent in the wilderness fasting and being tempted by the Devil before beginning His earthly ministry. In commemoration of Christ’s time in the wilderness, Christians celebrating Lent often look to give up something in their lives that they find tempting.
Bauknight discussed this effort by some Christians to give up something at Lent, pointing to the story of the man who decided that the perfect thing for him to give up at Lent was his New Year’s resolutions. He said this is what happens all too often at Lent as people make it about themselves and not about Jesus.
“Lent is not about this stuff,” Bauknight said. “The true meaning of Lent is certainly not about us. It has everything to do with Jesus Christ.”
Bauknight said that Lent is about surrendering yourself to Jesus Christ and letting Him manage your life and living your life so that others see Christ in you.
“We must surrender ourselves so we begin to mirror the life of Jesus Christ wherever we go,” Bauknight said. “Lent is a wonderful time of surrendering ourselves so that we will be strengthened in doing the work of Jesus Christ.”
Bauknight asked the congregation to ask themselves “on the first day of Lent, who are we going to allow to manage our lives? God asks us to consider the example of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The ceremony concluded with the Imposition Of Ashes followed, first, by the Absolution, and, then, this Prayer:
“You have given Yourself to us, Lord. Now we give ourselves for others. Help us bear Your light to a dying world, that the world might repent of their sins and turn to you. In Jesus’ Name Amen.”
After the ceremony, the worshippers adjourned to the Grace UMC social hall where they enjoyed a meal prepared by church members.
The next Community Lenten Service will be held at Grace United Methodist Church on Wednesday, Feb. 17 at noon. Fr. Louis Miller, pastor of The Episcopal Church of the Nativity, will lead the service and deliver the message. Special music will be provided by Ann White and Kathleen Read. The ceremony will again be followed by a meal in the church social hall prepared by Grace UMC members.
Charles Warner can be reached at 864-762-4090 or email@example.com.