First Congregational offers Ash Wednesday, Lenten sermon series

Lent 2018 - Raise Up, Sacrifice and Offer

Stinginess, whether in terms of monetary cheapness or a general lack of effort, is often a sign of a weak love.

For Catholics, this year it will be a day of fast and abstinence as Ash Wednesday falls on February 14.

Some Catholics have actually wondered which of the celebrations should take precedence.

Ash Wednesday: a day of fasting.

The Rev. Tracie Ashley of Emmanuel United Methodist Church, 5115 Cortez Road, Bradenton, has made a decision to celebrate Valentine's Day with her husband of almost 25 years, The Rev. Erick Ashley of Grace Community Church in the Tampa suburb of Lithia, by dining out this weekend, four days before the actual Valentine's Day, and devoting Valentine's Day to personal reflection.

Parenthetically, such inquiries show the unfortunate confusion that can ensue when, among other things, various dioceses with many Catholics of Irish origin give dispensations whenever St. Patrick's Day falls on a Lenten Friday so that Catholics can - without needing to attend any liturgical celebration of the great and abstemious Archbishop of Armagh - eat corned beef and drink Guinness without guilt. "We will save Ash Wednesday to contemplate our mortality on that day and that God is a ideal God who is all loving and forgives everybody". Perhaps they'll use this day of love to grow together in the love of God by coming to church together and having a simple meal together. He studied in seminary for six years, and was ordained in June 1995.

For enquiring minds, the rarity comes from the way the date of Easter is established. "It's the first Sunday that follows a full moon, which follows March 21 - the spring equinox".

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the ashes that many churches keep from the previous year's Palm Sunday and then burn to ashes, which are then placed on the foreheads or palms of believers with the reminder, "You are dust and to dust you shall return". "The practice of this once a year is an organic way of drawing their faith into their lives".

"Ash Wednesday reminds us that we are to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul and with all of our mind". People often give up something, like chocolate and candies, or alcohol, or chewing gum, for their fasting, or frequently put some loose change in a Rice Bowl box for almsgiving, or commit themselves to praying the Stations of the Cross on Fridays for prayer. There's nothing wrong with any of these practices, which are all steps in the right direction - but let's be honest: very small steps. "You can see a commonality between that and Valentines Day".

Valentine's Day may be for lovers, but it won't be for meat lovers this year. "It's an opportunity to deepen our love for God and therefore deepen our love of our neighbor and to serve our neighbor with more sincerity", said Sister Esther Mary. And who among us doesn't need to hear and heed that message?

Hmm. the keys to a romantic relationship: communication, sacrifice, and love.

Lent, the associate director stressed, is penitential but it is not meant to be punishment.

Basically, to give up some comfort in our lives as Jesus did.

"If a couple is not getting along, February 14 might be the exact time to think about all those buttons we all push to hurt those we love", Dewane said.

So, how do you offer a Valentine to God? The ashes we bear, testifying to our desire for conversion, can be like roses presented before him.

"Lent is a self-reflective time of the year where we open ourselves up to the Lord like no other time", Rev. Ashley said. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Holy Thursday when the Easter Triduum begins with Holy Thursday Mass, Good Friday service and the Holy Saturday Vigil of Easter and Easter Sunday Masses. That's Ash Wednesday, the first day in the 40-day Christian Season of Lent that ends the day before Easter.



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